Madres (2021) Holds Up a Mirror to the Horrifying Sins of the Past
First Non-Festival Release: October 8, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Ryan Zaragoza
Writer: Mario Miscione, Marcella Ochoa
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Starring: Ariana Guerra, Joseph Garcia, Tenoch Huerta
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Young couple Diana (Ariana Guerra) and Beto (Tenoch Huerta) move from Los Angeles to a modest house in the Central Valley for Beto’s new job as a manager of a ranch. Unable to hide her unenthusiasm and showing symptoms of some sort of illness, Diana immediately feels unwelcome by both the neighbors and the house. She feels a presence telling her that something is wrong, which leads her to look into the practices at the farm. She’s convinced that the sickness she, and others have contracted may be related to the new pesticides. The locals, however, believe a curse is responsible for their woes.
Madres is a simmering ghost story with searing social commentary that instigates thoughts more than chills.
Madres moves in a way that feels natural and restrained than other similar films of today. While some complained about the set up, I dug it. Exposing real life horrors through the assistance of the supernatural is one of my favorite tropes and it is used well here. Leads Guerra and Huerta portray a happy, loving couple well and easily pivot to the more emotional and scary scenes well enough. The rest of the cast is fine barring the main antagonists. By the time we realize what’s happening, it’s almost like they switch into a robotic mode hitting every cliché in the book. While the twist is great, the execution in the ending is not. The results of the confrontation feel cheap based on too perfect timing that doesn’t feel realistic.
The movie itself is mostly its message, but the message is a good one, so I’m inclined to let it be. It’s an excellent choice to highlight the horrors faced by real life people, with liberties taken of course. There’s a certain righteous anger to the film that cannot be quelled once the viewer reaches the infuriating explanations towards the end. Madres is depicted with a certain sensitivity that makes its existence feel more educational rather than exploitative. Horror is a great avenue to explore these darker topics of humanity and Madres does a great job sharing its horrors.
There are plenty of issues with the film. It feels a bit more modern than it should be. It’s set in the 70s, but the characters speak and act more like the present day. It’s distracting and takes the viewer out of the experience while dragging the pace of the film. Too many times where they crank up the sound in a situation that doesn’t call for it. It’s very cheap filmmaking and is grating to audience members wanting the scares to be earned. What’s sad is that Madres could have played it straighter and be a much better film.
The writing isn’t always a hit either. Beto did not have much depth to his character. While Diana is sufficiently multidimensional, Beto seems to exist just to be in service to others. This would be fine if he were a secondary character and not the leading male of the film. The dialogue delivery at the end is atrociously cartoon villain-esque which takes away from the gravity of the situation. Which is a shame considering how terrifying the final sequences could have been.
A quieter offering of horror, Madres is light on the supernatural scares one might expect and heavier on the horrors of man. Two affable leads and a conclusion that should enrage viewers, for the right reasons, makes this Blumhouse production a nice addition to their collection. It doesn’t quite go as far as a it can, and it does get a bit cheesy at times, it’s still a competently made film. Pregnancy horror is always a difficult concept to pull off, but director Ryan Zaragoza and his team do a fine job with Madres. While it isn’t one to write mom about, Madres is a capable chiller with enough bite to warrant a view.
Overall Score? 5.5/10