SOMEbody had the very clever idea of re-imagining the compelling drama about parents worried their kid is a psychopath, “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” as a horror film.
So good on you, writer-director Tucia Lyman.
The kid’s name is “Jacob,” not Kevin. The film is still from the mother’s point of view, but this time, it’s told in “found footage” — a mom (Melinda Page Hamilton) who is “spying on” her son documents his tirades, cruelty and increasingly disturbing and dangerous anti-social behavior.
We worry for her safety as she narrates the video files she creates from assorted “spy” cameras. And maybe we wonder, just a bit, if she isn’t part of the problem.
This debut feature film from a veteran reality TV “showrunner” is called “M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters.” So at least in that sense, BAD on you Tucia Lyman for that flippant, stupid, if not quite misleading title.
Abbey (Hamilton) has been hanging on to video footage of Jeremy since he was small. We see her grilling him about something he killed — an “accident,” or “Did you mean to kill it?” Another clip has the child smirking as we hear a younger kid bawling off camera.
Now, Jacob (Bailey Edwards) is 16, still acting out, throwing tantrums. And he’s big enough to threaten his mother.
“You want to monster out,” she complains, recording his rage. Go right ahead. “I’m keeping track. I’m RECORDING it!”
She shows us, when he’s not around, exhibit A — Jacob’s gun magazines and the pellet rifle he rigged with a “bump stock.”
Abbey has the time to stalk Jacob to school, get hints of “Fake Jacob,” a socialized front he puts on to his “friends” and teachers. But he can’t maintain the facade forever. She’s sure of that.
She follows him to a local business.
“It’s not like he can GET a gun, right?” She’s putting more trust in a gun shop owner than most reasonable people would.
Hamilton makes Abbey paranoid enough to flip out herself when a shrink she Skypes (Ed Asner) doesn’t buy her version of events and her sense of her psychic state. But we’ve seen too much to have much doubt.
“Pathological liar,” she says. “N.P.D. — narcissistic personality disorder,” chronic conspiracy thoughts.” “Signs” she says.
Then we see the first swastika.
This boy is a menace and will do bad things if he gets off his meds and doesn’t merit more than an attempted “diversion” from authorities.
“M.O.M.” loses some steam in its third act as Lyman struggles to cook up an ending that comes anywhere near the suspense she’s been building. Edwards fights a not-quite-losing battle with going “over-the-top” crazy as Jacob.
And ideally, there’d be more doubt about Abbey’s sanity than what the script generates.
But Lyman, knowing her way around cutting home movies, cell phone video and closed circuit “surveillance” footage into a narrative, makes a debut thriller feature well worth checking out once you get past the title.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence
Cast: Melinda Page Hamilton, Bailey Edwards and Ed Asner
Credits: Written and directed by Tucia Lyman. An Indie Rights release.
Running time: 1:35