The Horror Honeys: Mother!... Or the Case Against House Guests

Mother!... Or the Case Against House Guests

A New Release Review with Head Honey Linnie

Mother! (2017)

Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Few directors working today deserve the title of "auteur." In fact, there are so few of them, you could fit their names on one of those mini-Post-It notes. But one of the names on that tiny list would deservedly be Darren Aronofsky. Ever since the release of his first film, Pi (1998), he's been establishing himself as a singular voice in cinema. Even his worst films are still challenging visions, while his best are cinematic poetry. His newest release, Mother!, will be counted among his best, and as most of his films are, likely be the subject of passionate debate for years to come.

The story focuses on an unnamed couple, a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who is rebuilding the isolated home that she and her poet husband (Javier Bardem) live in. Suddenly, their quiet existence is completely upended when a strange couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive, claiming to have mistaken the home for a bed and breakfast. What follows is a deeply unsettling exercise in subtle psychological horror, combined with a final half hour that will test the endurance of even the seasoned horror fan.

Mother! was initially sold as a modern update of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, and on some level, this feels like a bit of accurate misdirection. It's accurate because Aronofsky has beautifully recreated the milieu of Polanski: his influence is everywhere in Mother!. Aronofsky's use of color, uncomfortable camera angles, and claustrophobic isolation call to mind the best of Polanski's style, while still presenting all of the things that make Aronofsky a master in his own right.

However, comparing Mother! to Rosemary is also misdirection, because while they may share some of the same DNA, Mother! is willing to go places that Ira Levin and Polanski weren't. For all of its genius, Rosemary's Baby is very much a traditional horror film, and there is literally nothing traditional about what Aronofsky has created with Mother!. Every scene is challenging, and gorgeous, and sometimes, almost painful. Different viewers will see different things, and have a hundred different reactions, which is exactly the kind horror we need more of in an era of popcorn horror consumption.

The performances in Mother! will probably also split viewers, but for this role, Jennifer Lawrence could not have been more perfectly cast. Her wide-eyed confusion and blank slate of innocence were vital to the believability of the lead role, and make the last half-hour that much more devastating. Michelle Pfeiffer was equally exceptional as a villain with no clear motive, which only made her that much more unnerving. While Bardem and Harris are great, it is the women that carry this film, and as he has previously, Aronofsky proves he's one of the few male directors currently working who is capable of writing unique and layered roles for female actresses.

When the credits roll, there are any number of meanings you could ascribe to Mother!, and that is its genius. Audiences who go into it looking for mainstream genre scares will probably be disappointed, but for those who are willing to be terrified to their core by surrendering to Aronofsky's vision completely, it will be one of your favorite films of the year.

Head Honey Rating: 5 broken hearts out of 5