Lagniappe Podcast: Hatching (2022)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli discuss the coming-of-age fairy tale creature feature Hatching (2022).

00:00 Welcome

04:30 Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
11:11 Night of the Comet (1984)
17:11 Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
22:39 Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2022)
26:34 Looop Lapeta (2022)
30:00 Incantation (2022)
34:04 Love and Leashes (2022)

37:00 Hatching (2022)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

-The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

You Are Not My Mother (2022)

It’s been four years since Ari Aster’s Hereditary and twice as long since Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, so we’re well past the point where it’s easy to take atmospheric horrors about grief, motherhood, and mental illness for granted.  Already this year, I’ve seen Andrea Riseborough headline her own entry in that genre with Here Before and Sandra Oh do the same (to much lesser impact) in Umma.  That’s why it’s difficult to get excited about the low-budget Irish indie You Are Not My Mother, which continues the trend with no flashy stars or gimmicks to set it apart with any freshness or novelty.  Still, while You Are Not My Mother is far from the first (or best) Metaphor Horror about the ways mental illness can haunt multiple generations of a family, it is a solid one.  It’s pure genre filmmaking in that way, and TV actor Carolyn Bracken does her best to keep up with the virtuosa mother-in-distress performances of Toni Collette and the like to make sure it meets the genre’s relatively high standards.

Boldly, this small-scale indie horror opens with a ritualistic baby burning, just so you know it’s not fucking around.  That white-hot cold open is necessary to establish its genre boundaries, since the first act is essentially a domestic drama about hereditary mental illness, with no other clear signals that it’s a horror film.  Three generations of depressed women occupy a small suburban home: a despondent grandmother (seen mysteriously burning a baby in the opener), her bed-sick daughter, and the granddaughter who can barely rouse those two caretakers for a simple ride to school.  Things turn wicked when the typically reclusive mother disappears for days without warning, then returns a chipper, model parent with a newfound energy that does not feel true to her usual deflated self.  The traditional horror markers ramp up from there, as the granddaughter confronts her mother’s sinisterly cheery imposter in the week leading up to Halloween, with the matriarch above them finally spilling her guts about why she burned that baby and who she failed to protect with the ritual.

The Halloween setting of the final act is more than just a horror mood-setter.  You Are Not My Mother conveys a reverence for the Gaelic origins of Samhain unseen in the genre since 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  If it does anything to set itself apart from modern trends of Metaphor Horror about grief, mental illness, and motherhood, it’s in the way it retrofits that template into a folk horror tradition – drawing in faerie & changeling folklore to conjure a sense of Old-World dark magic.  I suppose there’s also something novel about the film’s choice of POV, in which the mother-in-crisis is estranged as a monstrous Other, mostly seen through the terrified eyes of her freaked-out child.  Otherwise, you know exactly what you’re going to get from a modern, slow-burn horror in this style at this point, so there’s nothing to really say about You Are Not My Mother‘s quality, except in comparison to other films of its ilk.  In terms of new releases, it’s not as thrilling as Here Before but also not as dully generic as Umma; it’s middling.

-Brandon Ledet

Here Before (2022)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Here Before is a psychological thriller about a depressed woman who becomes awkwardly fixated on a nearby mother/daughter duo, triggering a flood of fragmented, fraught emotions surrounding her own relationships with her children.  Like The Lost Daughter, it premiered to positive reviews in 2021, praised for the performances of its central cast and as a promising debut for its director.  Since Maggie Gyllenhaal obviously enjoys more name-recognition cachet in the industry, Stacey Gregg’s own unraveling-mom psych thriller followed a much slower, quieter distribution path, newly available on the library-subscription streamer Hoopla instead of receiving an immediate awards push from the global behemoth Netflix.  As a result, their thematic overlap plays to The Lost Daughter‘s favor, which got there first & louder, but the eerie feeling of having been . . . here before does mirror the latter film’s premise in an interesting way.

In this particular mom-on-the-verge thriller, Andrea Riseborough plays an Irish suburbanite who’s grieving the loss of her young daughter when a new couple moves in next door with a child that looks & acts remarkably like her.  The neighbor child even shares memories & daily habits with Riseborough’s child, as if she were possessed by the daughter’s ghost.  Obviously, Riseborough cannot ignore this phenomenon, which has effectively brought her daughter back to life after a year of heartbreak, and she gradually wedges herself into this young stranger’s life in a way that makes everyone around her deeply uncomfortable.  The story twists & disorients from there, teetering between supernatural horror & communal-gaslighting conspiracy depending on its scene-to-scene whims.  Like with The Lost Daughter, the movie’s strengths lie more its performances & discomforting parental dynamics than it does in its plot, but Gregg’s film concludes with a much more satisfying genre payoff than Gyllenhaal’s.

Even putting Here Before‘s coincidental Lost Daughter parallels aside, it’s not exactly unique in its purpose or tone.  There’s plenty of Atmospheric Horror About Grief out there, especially of the post-Hereditary variety.  Only this one has Andrea Riseborough at center stage, though, and she carries the genre’s tension as expertly as you’d expect.  Rebecca Hall got her own acting showcase in the genre with The Night House.  Sandra Oh got hers in Umma.  Riseborough’s been given plenty of room to show off her range in the past (especially in Possessor, Mandy, and Nancy), but it’s still incredible to see her stretch her legs here.  The way she alternates between scowling at her living, knucklehead teenage son and smiling nervously at the ghost-child who’s replaced her dead daughter is nightmarishly volatile, winding tension so tight it’s incredible her face doesn’t tear in two.  Gregg matches her efforts without outshining them, except for in a music video nightmare sequence that momentarily tips the slowly building dread into true brain-melt terror.

Here Before is a low-budget, 80-minute chiller that’s entire allure is for horror fans already familiar with Riseborough’s talents as a performer.  I’m doing it no favors by comparing it to a Hollywood adaptation of a best-selling novel, produced by three well-established actresses who each received Oscar nominations for their efforts (including Gyllenhaal for Best Adapted Screenplay).  Still, I’d say it’s a more wholly satisfying movie than The Lost Daughter, while sharing many of its themes & saving graces.  It’s a shame fewer people will see it.

-Brandon Ledet

Tully (2018)

Diablo Cody’s work as a screenwriter is a bit of a required taste, as her dialogue often slips into overwritten self-amusement. It’s a tough stylistic choice to accommodate in a real-world drama, something she pulled off very awkwardly in Juno and with expert emotional cruelty in Young Adult. For me, Cody’s writing style is more consistently rewarding when it’s paired with an over-the-top premise that matches its eccentricity. The coming of age body horror genre beats of Jennifer’s Body and the D.I.D. multiple personality showcase of The United States of Tara frame Cody’s dialogue in its proper over-the-top context. The path to success is much easier in those works than in the grounded realism of a Young Adult, which requires more restraint. Cody’s latest project, a return to collaborating with Young Adult actor Charlize Theron & director Jason Reitman, smartly splits the difference between those two approaches. Tully is, in part, a brutally realistic drama about a woman who feels run-down & unacknowledged in the postpartum aftermath of her third childbirth. It’s also a tense fantasy piece swirling with nightmare imagery & reveries about mermaids that allows for Cody’s more batshit impulses to invade the dialogue & narrative without feeling out of place. I suspect that Tully will be as divisive as any of Cody’s other scripts, as its uncompromising dedication to both the recognizably true and the deliriously surreal are likely to leave audiences split between which side they’d wish to see more of. Personally, I found it to be one of her most substantial, rewarding works – one that fully figured out how to incorporate her eccentric artificiality into a real-world subject without feeling excessively awkward.

Tully begins with an idyllic, calm image of Theron’s protagonist playing mother in a sunlit, almost divine interaction with her son. That illusion is immediately disrupted by the harsh reality of an overworked, underpaid woman carrying her third child while wrangling her other two without much help from her eternally aloof husband (Ron Livingston). Her smug, wealthy brother (Mark Duplass, the Ron Livingston of the 2010s) offers to alleviate some of her blatantly apparent stress by hiring a “night nanny” to watch her newborn baby while she sleeps, affording her more stability in her daily routine. At first, this offer appears to be just as judgmental as every other unsolicited slice of advice about what she should be eating during pregnancy, how she should school her kids, and how much effort she’s putting into the upkeep of her home. As the horrors of daily routine mount to the piercing chaos of The Babadook, however, she breaks down and hires the night nanny anyway. A quirky eccentric with a college-age idealism that’s persisted well into her mid-20s, this Manic Pixie Dream Doula (Mackenzie Davis) completely changes the temperature of the home. The mother finally has the assistance she wasn’t getting from her tragically oblivious husband, but more importantly she has someone to acknowledge her and discuss her daily struggles instead of judging her supposed shortcomings as a homemaker. Still, although she seems more put-together on the exterior, she finds herself both jealous of & codependent on the night nanny and increasingly troubled dreams of mermaids & car crashes invade her more grounded thought patterns. The night nanny quick-fix is a life-saving miracle that completely shifts the reality of her daily routine, but it’s an Edenic dynamic that can only last for so long before the impossible obligations of modern motherhood come crashing back into the frame full-force.

Written after the birth of her own third child, Tully feels like a very personal project for Diablo Cody, who fills a somewhat delirious character study with plenty real-world detail. The way wealth determines quality of child care, the way fathers conveniently bumble their way past alleviating mothers’ daily responsibilities, and the horrifying tension built through a newborn baby’s incessant screams all feel like knowledgeable, lived experience. Cody’s overwritten dialogue tics are still present throughout, like in the mother’s description of the night nanny being like “a book of fun facts for unpopular 4th graders” or the nanny describing herself being “like Saudi Arabia” because she has “an excess of energy.” There’s also an extensive shout-out to the cult classic Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains awkwardly shoehorned into the film, exactly the way Kimya Dawson was clumsily forced into Juno’s DNA. For some audiences, Cody’s idiosyncratically overwritten style will always be a tough hurdle to clear. Her work requires a little bit of giving-in & good faith on the viewer’s end, but I personally find it to be very much worth the effort. Tully is deeply rewarding as a tense, darkly comic fantasy piece about the routine, real-life horrors of motherhood. It finds a great, delirious headspace that allows Cody’s stranger impulses to feel right at home with its more grounded character study of a woman frayed at the edges by an unfair, impossible collection of daily obligations. From the first appearance of an angelic mermaid disrupting the film’s realistic domestic drama you should be able to tell if you’re going to be onboard with the bizarre balance the film attempts to maintain between the surreal and the all-too-real. If you can accept what Cody’s doing on her own loopy terms, though, you might just find her results uniquely fascinating, even if inconsistent.

-Brandon Ledet