Film

“The Lullaby” Is Like a Crueler, Creepier “Babadook”

In this South African horror film, a troubled new mom is terrorized by a bonnet-wearing ghoul

by

Now that The Babadook has proven how smart and scary international movies about being a single mom can be, here we have the South African import The Lullaby, ready to take it one creepy step further.

Set in one moody-ass small town, The Lullaby is about a young woman (Reine Swart) who returns home after giving birth to a baby boy. Aided by her estranged mother (Thandi Puren), she has trouble getting acclimated to the whole new-mom thing, especially when she begins getting visions of a bonnet-wearing ghoul (Dorothy Ann Gould) egging her on to kill her newborn.

Much like how The Babadook struck a chord with sympathetic viewers, The Lullaby will likely hit moms to their core. Director Darrell Roodt and screenwriter Tarryn-Tanille Prinsloo create a paranoid, insulated world for our poor protagonist. (Swart looks so convincingly haggard and tired, I wondered if she went method and refused to sleep during production.) She struggles to keep herself in check even when it seems she’s losing her damn mind. It’s a feeling any woman who’s been through raising a kid knows all too well.

The filmmakers do an effective job at making a clever horror show out of postpartum depression. So it’s a shame the movie goes off the deep end in the final act, as the story literally comes to a bloody, tragic finish.

While The Babadook closed on an optimistic note, practically reassuring viewers that parenthood is a battle that’s worth it in the end, The Lullaby bitterly leaves you with this message: Once you have a kid, you’re pretty much fucked.

The Lullaby
Directed by Darrell Roodt
Uncork’d Entertainment
Opens March 2, Cinema Village

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 28, 2018

Archive Highlights