“Cradle Will Fall” marks the debut of co directors Lars Jacobson and Amardeep Kaleka, and is based upon the true story of Andrea Yates, a Texan mother who drowned her five young children in 2001 while suffering from depression. How closely the film follows the actual events is debatable, since Jacobson and Kaleka have taken an overtly horror-friendly approach, focusing on slash and stalk sequences and gore murders rather than attempting to deliver a psychological examination of the woman’s mental breakdown, and clearly showing the influence of a variety of genre classics. The film is being released on region 2 DVD via Momentum Pictures, and is one of the rare examples of a production arguably benefiting from a title change, as although “Cradle Will Fall” may sound somewhat generic, it is infinitely more appropriate than the bizarre gag-like original moniker “Baby Blues”.
The film follows actress Colleen Porch (also in “I Know Who Killed Me” and who showed up briefly in “Transformer”) as the demented young mother, who starts to crack after her truck driving husband (played by Joel Bryant, recently in “Valkyrie” and “The Heartbreak Kid”) goes back on the road yet again. Left in charge of the kids, the pressure pushes her over the edge and into madness, as she terrifies the youngsters with her bizarre and threatening behaviour. When it becomes clear that she means to kill him and his siblings, 10-year old Jimmy (Ridge Canpie, “Walk the Line”, “The Bad News Bears”) is forced to take up arms against her, leading to an unthinkable showdown between mother and son.
It very quickly becomes clear where “Cradle Will Fall” is heading, with it being obvious from the first scene that the mother is crazy, hearing voices and cutting her finger and using the blood for lipstick. This is about as much psychological depth as Jacobson and Kaleka are willing to offer, and indeed after the first fifteen minutes or so the film is basically one long chase scene, intercut with scenes of the father heading home and an elderly stoner neighbour failing to realise that the screams coming from the house mean that something is wrong. This actually works very well, and the film benefits from this stripped down, economic approach, with the focus on the tension and the more visceral aspects of the tale being preferable to any trite pop-psych explanations for the mother’s behaviour.
As such, the suspense comes from when rather than if she will erupt into homicidal violence, and again since this happens pretty early on, the film is all the more entertaining for its slasher style set pieces. Although Jacobson and Kaleka do go a little too far at times, for example during a scene in which the mother chases the kids through a cornfield in a harvester, such antics do help to keep things moving along at a good pace, and the respectably high quotient of scares and gruesome moments make the film a solid piece of genre work. This having been said, treating such a tragic tale as an excuse to play the central figure as a traditional knife wielding maniac does leave a certain suggestion of bad taste in the air, not least since Colleen Porch’s performance is wide eyed and over the top, with her cracking ill advised one line Freddy-esque gags as she stalks her own children, gleefully announcing witticisms such as ‘playtime’s over!’, ‘it’s past your bedtime!’, and of course, the inevitable ‘here piggy, piggy piggy….’.
Still, since the film makes no pretentions to seriousness, such nonsenses never really grate, and the action rattles along at a fair old pace – probably just as well, since the film clocks in at an impressively short one hour and fifteen minutes. Jacobson and Kaleka’s direction is generally tight throughout, making good use of the creepy backwoods locations, and making frequent references to “The Shining”, which was quite obviously a primary influence. They do at times overdo the horror clichés a little too much, with the dry ice really billowing and the cheap scares piling up towards the end, which does undermine the tension somewhat.
Again, this is perhaps forgivable, and “Cradle Will Fall” offers a short, sharp and occasionally shocking viewing experience. More likely to be enjoyed by horror fans rather than anyone looking for a searching examination of the tragic true events or indeed an exploration of the mind of a madwoman, it delivers the genre goods in admirably straight and effective style.
Lars Jacobson, Amardeep Kaleka (director) / Lars Jacobson (screenplay)
CAST: Colleen Porch … Mom
Ridge Canipe … Jimmy
Joel Bryant … Dad
Kali Majors … Cathy
Holden Thomas Maynard … Sammy