Distraught mother Abbey (Melinda Page Hamilton) believes her son Jacob (Bailey Edwards) is a psychopath who may be planning a school shooting. In order to gain more insight into Jacob’s behaviour, Abbey installs a series of spy cameras around their home and records the results, wondering whether her fears are about to be confirmed…
When it comes to the found/video cam footage genre, my main bone of contention is the fact that characters film and frame exactly the right things regardless of the mayhem going on around them instead of their self-preservation instincts kicking in and them getting the hell out of there. Mothers Of Monsters neatly circumvents this by having the in-house camera coverage and having Abbey driven to go handheld on occasion so she can gather evidence of Jacob’s worrying attitude.
Presented from the point of view of someone viewing various video clips from a computer desktop – it’s never made clear whom – the story plays out in more or less sequential manner apart from the odd jump back to a previous piece of footage. From the outset, Abbey makes it clear that she’s extremely concerned that she needs to prove Jacob’s unstable mental state before other people get hurt.
Her fears seem reasonably well-founded too. Jacob isn’t your run-of-the-mill moody teenager; he has a mercurial temper and is uncommunicative on a whole different level. A grisly discovery made in his room doesn’t help matters either and, faced with a system that doesn’t believe her, what can Abbey possibly do?
Considering the bulk of the entire 98-minute runtime is carried by just the two leads, writer/director Tucia Lyman keeps things interesting via a steady build of information about both Abbey and Jacob. Both are clearly damaged in different ways and their interactions carry the right amount of frustration for both the ever more concerned mother and the viewer, making the occasional verbal explosions all the more powerful.
As Jacob, Bailey Edwards has a difficult job in making his character obnoxious enough to keep the proceedings suspenseful without provoking the urge to switch the whole thing off because he’s so irredeemably horrible. It’s a tightrope he walks very well and the odd moment where I’d really had enough of his shit is neatly balanced by glimpses of him acting normal, even charming, around some of his friends at school.
However, therein lies the film’s central mystery. Are all of the pleasantries around his school buddies just an act? We do see him behave in an uncaring way towards his supposed best friend, whom he also criticises just for being Jewish. It’s unpleasant but to avoid showing this type of prejudice would be to deny that it isn’t a problem in society, which it clearly is.
Melinda Page Hamilton is excellent as the parent pushed to breaking point and the plot ramps up her feelings of increasing helplessness to an almost sadistic degree. You’ll certainly feel her barely contained rage and this will play into the third act, where events take a turn into more conventional horror territory which may lessen the effect of what’s gone before but also forces Abbey and Jacob into the confrontation which has been brewing from the beginning.
If there is a mis-step in the movie, it’s the one-scene detour featuring Edward Asner who appears in a Skype chat to give some vague psychological exposition which doesn’t really move the story on or shed much light as to whether Jacob really is a psychopath. I mean, it’s nice to see Edward Asner on screen and it does give the movie a name to put on the poster but his overall impact on the proceedings is minimal.
The found footage genre is crammed with tales of monsters and the supernatural so it’s pleasing to see something which grapples with more serious, pressing issues. Mothers Of Monsters may ultimately lack the spark which would have elevated it to something truly special but it’s an unnerving, sobering watch with two committed performances and an unswerving focus on its own challenging, problematic material. It may not have the answers but it at least deserves credit for getting the discussion out there.