“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


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

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