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Review: THE LULLABY (2018)

When a movie has a priest snapping a newborn’s neck in its opening minutes, you know it’s not going to be business as usual. And the prologue to Darrell Roodt’s THE LULLABY shows just that. A clergyman in a British run concentration camp during the Boer War doing just that. What follows is a grim, tightly wound shocker.

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Chloe (Reine Swart, TRIGGERED, THE REFUGE) ran away from home, escaping her overbearing mother Ruby (Thandi Puren DEAD EASY) and would-be boyfriend Adam (Deànré Reiners). Now she’s back and pregnant by a man she refuses to talk about. After a painful and traumatic birth, Chloe finds herself overwhelmed by motherhood and coming to terms with her past. She begins to see and hear things, including a ghostly image urging her to kill her child. Is it postpartum depression, or is there something evil afoot? Something connected to the old camp outside of town? Her mother refers her to Dr. Reed (Brandon Auret TREMORS 5, CHAPPIE) but he may have an agenda of his own.

Director Roodt has a long list of credits in his homeland of South Africa, many of them shot in Afrikaner. The fact that his best known English language films are probably CITY OF BLOOD and DRACULA 3000 wasn’t encouraging. Thankfully, THE LULLABY is infinitely better than those atrocities. The domestic drama and horror blend well to create a believable backstory. The gaps are revealed in flashbacks along the way and help lead to the film’s bloody climax.

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One of the film’s strengths is how events can support more than one possible explanation, so you never feel like you’re being led to a particular conclusion. You’re never sure what to believe or expect. The film’s pace can be a little slow at times, but it’s used to good effect. Rather than be a collection of endless jump scares, THE LULLABY builds up the suspense to extreme levels before unleashing its scares. The results should satisfy any horror fan. The effects that back the scares up are well done too. From the demonic-looking figures to the hallucinations concerning the baby itself, they’re on point and effective.

A very pleasant and nerve-wracking surprise, THE LULLABY has me wanting to check out a couple of Roodt’s other genre films, like THE STICK and CRYPTID. Hopefully, they’re as good as this was.

Uncork’d Entertainment will release THE LULLABY, in theaters and on VOD March 2.

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