Directed by John R. Leonetti and written by Alex Greenfield and Ben Powell, a new mother discovers a lullaby in an ancient book and soon regards the song as a blessing, but her world transforms into a nightmare when the lullaby brings forth the ancient demon Lilith. Starring: Oona Chaplin, Ramón Rodríguez, Liane Balaban, Mary Ann Stevens, Julie Khaner, Alex Karzis, Spencer Macpherson, Kira Guloien and R Austin Ball.
Setting a horror around first time parents with a new-born baby is a sure-fire way to create an instant atmosphere of vulnerability and fear. Every step is always going to have you worried that something is going to happen to the child. It also brings that classic naivety of a few minutes silence giving parents the unearned confidence that it’s going to be easy. Things start off well and it’s nicely adding in the cracks as it goes along but things start to move with less confidence as it passes the half way mark. The story is fairly predictable, the dialogue is clumsy at times and the husband’s (Ramón Rodríguez) character feels somewhat superfluous as time passes. The interesting thing about it is that if you did move the husband more out of the equation it could potentially give it the space to be a more compelling story of motherhood. Although, it doesn’t feel as though these writers would have the background for that.
The way that Lullaby uses horror is likely the strongest element it has to offer, it does genuinely give you those quintessential moments of wanting to both look and look away. It does make quite a lot of overt choices, especially towards the end which maybe go over the top but surprisingly for the most part it does work. It really depends what you’re looking to get out of it but if it’s just a relatively simple horror, that’s entertaining, even if not entirely original, then you’ll find more than enough to enjoy. It delves into religious superstition, the supernatural and how much a crying baby can drive you mad.
Oona Chaplin provides a great example of that with Rachel, slowly losing her grip on reality and time with sleep deprivation. Opening up that vulnerability but at the same time never feeling weak, she’s got that typical strength of a mother, protection and commitment. While the story may not make the most of his character, Ramón Rodríguez does give another solid performance, he brings a great dose of fear and he has a strong chemistry with Chaplin. Liane Balaban provides the unknown quantity here, her introduction leaves you extremely unsure of how to interpret her, partially because there’s one or two unanswered questions but also in the presence that she creates. Together the three of them build a horrific family evening of nursery rhymes and demons.
Lullaby will either check the box for you or it won’t but any horror fan can tell you that it’s not about perfection, it’s about the viewing experience and entertainment. The film makes you question things, suspect where it’s going, both fearful for its characters and suspicious of them, so in that sense, it achieves that check. In others it can be messy and unfinished, slightly over the top and with a stereotypical horror ending that doesn’t quite fit but is thrown in for a fun or slick moment. It’s simply one of the many horror flicks that scratch the itch for an easy evening watch.