Eye For Film >> Movies >> Cradle Will Fall (2008) Film Review
Taking postpartum psychosis - an extreme post-natal disorder which apparently affects one to two women in every 1000 new mothers - as its central premise, Cradle Will Fall is a riotous and at times deeply disturbing film about a young mother who snaps under the pressure of trying to raise four young children on an isolated farmhouse while her husband works away from home as a trucker. Going utterly berserk, and with her mainly redundant husband out of the picture, Mom starts offing her sprogs in increasingly shocking ways.
With such a ‘delicate’ subject one might assume that it would warrant some amount of sensitivity. Not so. Cradle is pretty much a no-holds-barred, tightly-wound slasher movie that consistently ups the ante and the shock-factor with sadistic relish.
With the recent slew of murderous-tyke films such as The Children and Eden Lake, it now appears that the kids have had their fun and it is the turn of their parents to turn deadly; cutting a bloody swathe through playpens and nurseries with shocking indiscrimination as they go.
And make no mistake, Cradle Will Fall AKA Baby Blues is shocking, but it’s about as subtle as Jack Nicolson bashing his way through your door with an axe – indeed, Cradle wears the influence of The Shining proudly on its soiled sleeve and comes across as a sort of Flowers In The Attic for the Eli Roth generation. While the violence inflicted upon the younger children remains largely off screen, its implication is jaw-to-the-floor disarming. Aside from perhaps Dario Argento’s misanthropic Mother Of Tears, no other film in recent memory has displayed such malevolence or ill-will towards the young.
From the chilling discovery of the baby, to the attempted drowning of Cathy and the shockingly brutal demise of Sammy, events become more outrageous as they unfold. Never more so though as when Mom climbs onboard a combine harvester and revs it up… As thoroughly ridiculous as this scene is, it still gets the adrenaline pumping and offers a prime example of the sort of line this film treads. Half serious, half absurd, it still manages to hold one’s attention all the way to the blood and gas-soaked finale.
The use of a couple of throwaway one-liners such as "Playtime's over" and "It’s past your bedtime" also mark what surely must be a tongue-in-cheek approach.
The scenes of tension are handled well, notably those that take place in the barn as Mom recites This Little Piggy whilst violently jabbing at the bails of hay, where her offspring cower, with a pitchfork. One of the more provocative scenes features the build up to the death of the youngest boy Sammy. Ordered by his older brother Jimmy to cycle to the neighbours and get help, Sammy is then confronted and ordered by Mommy Dearest to get back inside the house. Caught in this crossfire of opposing orders the poor boy eventually relents and follows his mother’s instructions. What’s a boy to do, afterall? What follows is utterly distressing as his punishment for disobedience turns deadly. The idea that children see their parents as infallible and all-loving is cruelly subverted here for maximum impact.
As Mom, Colleen Porch delivers a barnstorming performance that, for the most part, treads the line between genuinely unnerving and grotesquely over-the-top. The problem is that Mom is obviously deeply disturbed from the get go and there isn’t really any tension garnered from her initial withdrawal from her family to her freefall into lunacy. Early on, we are treated to an upsetting scene in which she breaks down while hanging out the laundry.
Her sense of hopelessness and helplessness is never more masterfully evoked than here. The sun-kissed photography in these early scenes perfectly conveys a sense of childhood nostalgia before everything is shot through a more familiar lens, complete with moonlit cornfields, dark and musty barn interiors and the final cat and mouse chase around the increasingly ransacked house. Also worth mentioning is Ridge Canipe who, as Jimmy, delivers one of the strongest performances in the film.
Perhaps, given the extremely nasty and taboo concept that lurks within the story, it was a wise move by the filmmakers, writer/director Lars Jacobson and co-director Amardeep Kaleka to veer into absurdly over-the-top mayhem, rather than depict events in a more low-key fashion – had they done that, this film would have been utterly devastating in its impact.
As it is, Cradle Will Fall, while overtly silly in places, is still an incredibly taut and well executed thriller that should entertain and provoke in equal measure. It is, however, hampered by a rather trite ending hoping to pass as disturbing, in which the values of family and togetherness are paramount to all else; no matter what they follow in the wake of, it seems. Cradle should garner a look from horror fans and those jaded by the recent slew of glossy teen-orientated remakes. An expertly crafted, slyly humorous and nasty little shocker.Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2009