Mother, May I, the subtle possession thriller and feature debut from writer/director Laurence Vannicelli, is not your typical possession film. Sure, it has all the tropes you’d expect: strange behavior, unexplainable events, and a sense of creeping dread that builds with each passing scene. But what sets this film apart is the emotional depth and complexity that underlies the horror. At its core, this is a story about trauma and how it shapes our relationships with others.
After Emmett’s (played by Kyle Gallner) estranged mother passes away, he and his fiance Anya (Holland Roden), head to her country homestead to prepare it for sale. The couple use this opportunity as a chance to get away from the outside world, and inevitably work on the problems that have been plaguing their relationship from moving forward. The pair have established a specific and rigid ‘process’ for their therapeutic discussions, one that Emmett is reluctant to participate in, but Anya, the daughter of a psychologist, eagerly enforces. That is until Anya starts exhibiting strange behavior that can only be described as a “possession”, and another personality enters the mix. At first, Emmett brushes it off as stress or exhaustion, but as the behavior becomes more pronounced, he realizes that something is seriously wrong.
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What follows is a tense and unnerving descent into darkness, as Emmett tries to figure out what is happening to Anya and how to free her from the grip of whatever is possessing her, or if she’s even being possessed at all. Along the way, he confronts his own traumas and emotional baggage, which have been locked away for years.
Holland Roden’s performance as Anya is truly mesmerizing. She manages to convey the duality of her character with incredible nuance and subtlety. One moment she is a carefree young adult, lounging around in her pajamas, and the next she is a rigid, proper matron, with perfect posture and a commanding presence. It’s a challenging role, but Roden rises to the occasion, delivering a performance that is both haunting and heartbreaking.
Genre regular Kyle Gallner is equally impressive as Emmett, a man who is struggling to come to terms with his own emotions and the ghosts of his past. He has a natural charisma that makes him instantly likable, but as the film progresses, we see his vulnerabilities and flaws, which only makes him more human and relatable.
“[Mother, May I is] a deeply emotional film that explores the complexities of human relationships and the lasting impact of trauma.”
What I appreciated most about Mother, May I was its refusal to provide easy answers. Throughout the movie, we are left wondering whether the possession is real or merely a manifestation of the characters’ emotional baggage. This ambiguity only makes the horror more effective, as we are forced to confront our own fears and insecurities.
In the end, MOTHER, MAY I is a solid thriller that delivers on its promise of subtle scares and lingering suspense. But it’s also a deeply emotional film that explores the complexities of human relationships and the lasting impact of trauma. With strong performances from its lead actors and a haunting atmosphere that will stick with you, this is one possibly-possessed film you won’t want to miss.
We caught Mother, May I at Panic Fest 2023! Click HERE to follow our continued coverage of the fest and let us know all about your favorite eerie thrillers over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord!
[#PanicFest2023 Review] Subtle Possession Thriller MOTHER, MAY I Haunts in All the Right Ways
MOTHER, MAY I is a solid thriller that delivers on its promise of subtle scares and lingering suspense. But it's also a deeply emotional film that explores the complexities of human relationships and the lasting impact of trauma. With strong performances from its lead actors and a haunting atmosphere that will stick with you, this is one possibly-possessed film you won't want to miss.