South African Horror ‘Lullaby’ Has Some Intriguing Ideas, But Does It Bring the Scares?

Chloe is a young single mother who struggles to care for her baby under the watchful and oppressive eye of her mother and her mother’s psychiatrist. Chloe begins to experience disturbing visions and an upsetting urge to harm her baby.

Where the film excels is in exploring the anxieties of a new parent. Chloe’s constant obligation to care for her child and the resentment that builds as a result manifests in a series of upsetting dream sequences in which her child is harmed by her inadvertent negligence or repressed malice. A particularly wince inducing sequence involves her cutting her baby’s fingernails.

The horror moments of the film are the traditional “Quiet, Quiet, BANG!”  jump scares. A pale faced figure lunges at Chloe accompanied by great fanfare from the stock horror movie soundtrack. The soundtrack is fairly overbearing, offering a distorted crackle or sudden crash to any potentially tense sequence or dramatic moment. These can feel cheap, and are somewhat unnecessary as the central conceit of the film is far more interesting and frightening.

There is also a subplot regarding a dark episode of South African history, which seems destined to repeat itself, with a little help from the family psychiatrist who plays puppet master to Chloe’s psychological torment. I feel this subplot confuses a much more interesting narrative about post-natal depression, especially in the context of the third act twist regarding the child’s parenthood.

Lullaby had the potential to be Black Swan for mothers, or a kind of prequel to Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, fully exploring the emotional weight that a baby can bring to a young person with dreams of her own. The film works best when focusing on these elements. Lullaby is a horror film with some excellent ideas and an intriguing premise, it’s just a little frustrating that it contains so many over-wrought modern horror movie conventions.

2.5 / 5

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