Horror fanatics are remembering one of the genre’s wildest psychological thrillers on its 5th anniversary

An allegory for the creation of man might not seem like the stuff of nightmares, but five years ago an influential director showed audiences that the act of genesis is as violent and traumatic as any ten ordinary slasher films.

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! might seem like a home invasion thriller at first, or even after the first act a nightmarish psycho-thriller, but there’s far more substance, and far more violence both physical and mental at play beneath every scene. So much so, in fact, that the inevitable cataclysmic end becomes more of a release than a resolution.

mother! begins idyllically and unspoiled in a tranquil country home occupied by a young woman played by Jennifer Lawrence and her husband, credited in the film only as Him, an acclaimed poet struggling to create his next book. A strange man, and later a woman, then their two sons come to the house and are welcomed with open arms by Him, despite his wife’s trepidation. This is the point in broader horror films where things begin to look familiar, but Aronofsky doesn’t allow us that familiarity, comforting or not.

Lawrence (the mother of the title) finds she is pregnant, her husband begins writing again, and something vital yet horrific begins to grow and live. The audience experiences bleeding walls, characters appearing out of nowhere, and even plasma-filled exploding light bulbs but the terror doesn’t seem to stem from a supernatural source. Instead, it’s a creative one. Eden, Adam and Eve, and most important of all, the creator Himself all lie beneath the characters. And the inevitable expulsion from the garden is explosive.

Unfortunately, the film fared poorly at the box office, due not only to its mind-boggling content, but also to the fact that the accompanying ad campaign did little to nothing to let viewers know what to expect. Even so, fans on social media are celebrating the film and especially Lawrence’s performance, with many citing it as one of her best.

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