M.O.M. (Mothers of Monsters) follows a mom who begins recording her and her troubled son's life to give evidence to her son's sadistic and sociopathic behavior. As the young man's actions become more violent and scary, she must weigh whether her innate love for her son is or her urge to do what she think is right.
This found-footage style horror/thriller takes a micro-budget that is shot almost entirely within the home of the two characters and turns in an admirable form of commentary on the seemingly increasing problem of troubled youth acting out in violent ways and the parents that often are held responsible. In this film, we get a layered yet uneven fictional portrayal of this world through the eyes of a concerned and disturbed mother struggling with her son's sociopathic tendencies.
The film teeters between clever and formulaic, unsettling and laughable. And while the film is commendable on more than one occasion, is it equally unsatisfying in others. The teen's tantrums over his Playstation give the vision of a spoiled brat rather than a young mind dipping into madness. But then his unnerving responses at other times seem spot-on to what you'd expect a budding serial killer to say.
The mother turns in an awkward, yet powerful performance as she constantly sways between trying to help her son, trying to commit him, and second-guessing her own sanity. The eventual path leads to a final act that is terribly drawn out, reminiscent to me of Grave Encounters' ending of all things, but the final moments are powerful and controversial.
M.O.M. is a flawed film. Its limited budget isn't as apparent in the found footage style, which often masks such deficiencies well, but in the off-kilter acting and imbalanced editing. The story isn't fluid, lacking the smooth sway to keep the psychotic content digestible. Even as far as multi-cam found-footage goes, the cuts are choppy and the missing time between shots gets old.
The overall concept is interesting. What do concerned parents do? The film tackles the issues a parent may run into in real life. Perhaps the most disturbing thing in the whole film is the son's understanding of his long leash under the legal system as a minor. While the mom has tried on multiple occasions to have something done, the police and counselors excuse the teen's behavior and he smoothly squirms his way out of any legitimate solution the mother tries to get. It feels frustratingly accurate to many of the situations we've heard before.
Of course, a much more disturbing and eye-opening experience can be found in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but M.O.M. is a decent low-budget knock-off. While Kevin seems to focus more on the "nature vs. nurture" controversy and the inevitable conclusion is a means to an end, M.O.M. sits firmly on the perspective of "nature" and focuses more on the means rather than the end. How far should a parent go if they are inevitably solely responsible for their child's actions? Obviously the film takes this down a dark thematic path, but it attempts to answer the question valiantly that a parent shouldn't just dismiss their child's tendencies towards harm simply because they are their child. It's a simple movie, but it tackles complex questions.