Motherhood has never been so hard in this South African horror film. The Lullaby stars Reine Swart as Chloe, a new mother who has her first child and moves back to her home town along with her mother. Chloe immediately falls under a depression and has more to handle than just a crying baby and the lack of sleep. An estranged relationship with her mother and a ghostly woman in a black dress she believes is haunting her and trying to take her baby. Is the menacing ghost really after her child or is this all part of Chloe’s postpartum depression getting the best of her?
From Uncork’d Entertainment, this paranormal horror film directed by Darrell Roodt (Dangerous Ground, Dracula 3000) and written by Tarryn-Tanille Prinsloo offers more than just the typical jump scares and creepy imagery. You also get a front row seat to the struggles of having your first child. Postpartum depression is very real and can make you do and say some strange things. Swart provided that very well in her acting as her character is struggling with having horrible dreams of hurting her baby, at the same time, protecting her baby from unknown forces.
Her mother, Ruby (Thandi Puren) adding pressure to Chloe to be the best first-time mom adds a lot of stress to the situation seeing as they don’t have the best relationship either. This baby and being in that house reminds them both of their past and awakens some memories neither would care to deal with again. Watching the two actresses together was entertaining and interesting. Their dynamic to one another is pretty strong as they both don’t hold back the feelings they have with how to raise the baby. Add the fact that Ruby has to put on mommy duties on hyper drive as Chloe falls deeper and deeper into depression and violent tendencies.
The films tactics on the frights were good. There were a lot of disgusting scenes involving violence to the baby, along with some removing of appendages, blood curdling screams, and this dark color palette of black and blues that gave it that sinister look in the woods throughout the film. There were a lot of jump scares in the film. The effects were decent but there was no substance behind these scenes. They pretty much stood as separate takes that could have belong to any horror film. Yes, the common use of the Woman in black showed up more than once, but other than the prologue explaining the significance of her appearance the rest is just the new mom having a terrifying dream one after the other. After a while you become immune to the scares and they don’t provide any suspense anymore.
Which brings me to the story a little bit. While they were good with the mother/daughter dysfunctional bond, the paranormal side of things complicated the movie as we didn’t really get any further development as to what the apparition was after. If she is after the kid, fine but get on with it. It seemed that every attempt was thwarted just because the mom was aware of her presence. I guess what I am saying is that there was no real struggle or battle with the ghost which means that this part of the story wasn’t really the villain or real threat of the movie. I found that to be a bit disappointing. As the title of the movie suggested, the movie should be dealing with a lullaby and how it ties into the story and the legend of a ghostly figure trying to perform a ritual or sacrifice of some kind. Maybe I didn’t notice it in the film but without it made the movie a bit frustrating to follow and stay focused on.
Add to the fact of the questionable acting and directing of the character Dr. Timothy Reed, played by Brandon Auret (Elysium, District 9, Chappie). He plays psychologist to both Chloe and Ruby as they use his services to break down exactly what is going on with Chloe and also dealing with the dark past of Ruby. With his voice sounding sinister with every scene he is in puts him on top of the list of someone you can’t trust. If that is something the writers didn’t want us to know than they failed by making him so creepy and untrustworthy. The camera angles and close ups to his face, the suspenseful music playing while he speaks just screams he has something to do with it but again, no development to suggest that and we are just left with drawn out scenes that don’t really add to the story.
Overall, I would say that all the elements of a unique horror film are here but it seems that the editing and execution didn’t really do the story any favors. Without giving away the ending, I would say that this movie provided a look at the ugly side of having a baby. There is an internal struggle for some mothers when it comes to raising your first child and by using the horror genre to give that psychological burden a visual look into that depression is this film’s strongest element. If you are wondering through this entire review as to where is the father of the baby in all of this. Let me tell you they do resolve that question and when you find out, you understand why this is so hard for Chloe to deal with and adds a little more depth to her. I just would have enjoyed a more in-depth reasoning to the scares to make them more effective to the story. Watch this film if you enjoy urban legends and using horror as a metaphor for real life pains.
2 out of 5
I appreciate you reading my review of The Lullaby. This South African Horror is in theaters across the U.S and on VOD from 3/2. If you happen to watch the film, comment your thoughts on the film and if there is anything you caught in the film that escalated the story better. Also, if you enjoyed the frights and suspense, comment those thoughts as well. Remember, every movie has at least one fan. I’ll see you at the movies.