Saturday, July 10, 2010
BABY BLUES (2008) - all housework and no play can make mommy want to kill her own kids
You’d think the birth of a baby would be roundly celebrated, a happy bundle of joy pushed out of a no doubt exhausted vagina. However, there actually exists quite a few birth related forms of depression, namely:
-Prepartum depression: when a fetus is depressed about their impending birth, and the prospect of living amongst a bunch of giants who make stupid baby noises at them all day.
-Premortem depression: when you're depressed that you were ever born at all.
-Subpartum depression: you’re depressed about living in a basement apartment below a newborn who screams and cries at all hours of the night.
-Sidewayspartum depression: you were born after the release of the movie Sideways, and therefore are depressed about having missed out on all of that Sideways hoopla.
Then there’s postpartum depression, where a new mother experiences fatigue and sadness, possibly related to a flux of hormones (not to be confused with the flux capacitor, which is some time travel bullshit). One of the most famous cases was with Brooke Shields, who suffered from PPD after the birth of her daughter, only to have Tom Cruise publicly bitch about it. You see, the Scientologists are aggressively against any form of psychiatry. After all, if you’re brain washing people, you don’t want them trusting anyone who might be able to help free their shackled minds. Regardless, I think Brooke knows her emotional situation better than some random actor dude. Besides, Tom believes that an alien named Xenu founded earth, bringing billions of people over in his spaceship (that’s a pretty roomy interior), letting them settle among the world’s volcanoes before dropping H-bombs on them (or so I can gather from that South Park episode). Yeah…she’s the crazy one.
Colleen Porch plays the mother, already on the cusp of a full blown schizo meltdown. We don’t see her in a previously “normal” state, but it seems that postpartum depression is only a mild factor in her impending breakdown. She’s perpetually on the verge of tears, having creepy hallucinations, and experiencing sonic schizophrenia, including a baby speaker that seems to be possessed by the devil. I’m assuming that she’s imagining this, as I doubt that they make a baby speaker that gives you that cool Satan voice (maybe I'll check Spencer’s Gifts anyway). Well, her trucker husband lets her know that he’s gotta go on the road, leaving her with the baby and the other three kids in relative isolation in their farmhouse. The oldest son is worried about his mother being a sad bastard, but dad explains that postpartum depression is common, and that everything’s gonna be all right (famous last words). He tells his son that he’s the man of the house, and then heads for the road, as delivering cases of Schlitz Malt Liquor across this great land is more pressing than his wife’s crumbling mental state.
Well, this hardly bodes well for poor Colleen. She soon after finds a matchbook in her hubby’s pants for an establishment called “The Sweat Shop”, which promises “broads and booze”. I thought sweat shop workers didn’t get so much as a lunch break, let alone free tits and beer. Then again, maybe it’s one those nudie bars. That’s probably it. Anyway, her postpartum influenced schizophrenia, combined with the horrors of daily drudgery (cooking, cleaning, listening to the kids yell and scream, etc.) sends her over the proverbial edge. The newborn is the first to go, which is quite surprising, as few films would have the balls to kill off a baby right off the bat (usually it’s the token black dude that gets it first). She then tries (and fails) to drown her daughter in the bath tub. This is reminiscent of Andrea Yates, who drowned her kids in a tub as well, partially motivated by religion (she apparently saw her kids as evil). The opening title card states that the movie is based on actual events, and I imagine this was one such “event”. There are also some religious overtones to Colleen’s emotional breakdown (when we first see her, she’s reading a bible), which further conflates it with Andrea’s “holy” crusade.
At this point, the crazy mother becomes a de facto Michael Myers, stalking her tykes out of the house, through the cornfield, and into the barn. The eldest boy does indeed become the heroic man of the house, going toe to toe with mommy while protecting his younger sister. When he finally fights his way back into the house, one of the first things he notices is one of those “#1 Mom” mugs. Oh the irony. Did you ever notice that everyone is a “#1 Mom”, or “world’s greatest grandpa”, or whatever? It sounds nice in theory to make everyone a winner by declaring a tie, but you lose any sense of standards in the process.
Colleen Porch tries her emotional darndest, but she seems a bit miscast as a farm wife. Also, her augmented lips are a bit distracting, as I doubt she has enough money to blow on plastic surgery when she has to support four kids on a trucker’s salary. However, the kids are well portrayed, sympathetic and conveying genuine horror (particularly the daughter). As you can imagine after the dead newborn bit, the treatment of the children is totally unflinching, breaking the rules of commonly held taste and audience expectation, like most decent horror movies should.
The film starts with a sense of rustic realism, sort of a cheaper David Gordon Green, but soon after starts adding in creepy imagery and sound, quickly selling the audience on the mother’s complete descent into madness. The movie may have played better carrying through with it’s more realistic aspects, as sort of an American gothic gone horribly wrong, rather than piling on the horror movie techniques. As it is, it sorta feels like two movies scrunched together, both rough around the edges, albeit considerably more interesting than what passes for American horror these days. True terror needs to be based in some sort of human relevance. It doesn't exactly strike a chord of horror within me to watch some schmuck in a movie who can magically pull a nonsensically convoluted trap out of his ass, using it to kill strangers for no real reason. Rather, here is a case of a mother killing people they ostensibly love, for reasons that are too horrific to fathom.