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Madres 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Madres, the latest in Amazon’s Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology, is a horror film that obviously has something to say, but doesn’t know how to say it well. The film introduces a lot of plot threads, none of which are given enough attention or adequate depth. The characters and story are flimsy at best, gimmicky at worst. Beneath the tacky, and rather un-scary, horror lies an interesting story, one that is multifaceted and terrifying because it draws upon real-life atrocities that are far scarier than Madres could ever be. Directed by Ryan Zaragoza from a screenplay by Marcella Ochoa and Mario Miscione, Madres is extremely fragmented and painfully subpar, wasting a chance to tell an intriguing, nuanced story that is still an issue in the present.
Set in the 1970s, the film follows Diana (Ariana Guerra) and Beto (Tenoch Huerta), a Mexican-American couple who moves from Los Angeles to a farming community after Beto is offered a managerial job. The pair settle into their home, though Diana, who is seven months pregnant, often feels like an outsider in the local Hispanic community because she doesn’t speak Spanish. Shortly after they move in, Diana begins seeing and feeling a presence throughout the house, one that seems to be targeting her specifically and, crucially, her baby. As Diana begins developing a rash and experiencing pain and visions, she suspects something is amiss — their friends believe it’s a curse that has affected the Hispanic community, in particular — and investigates it to find that a potential spirit isn’t the most haunting aspect about the town.
Madres has several interesting ideas, but they never go anywhere. The film doesn’t have a sense of direction, bringing in plenty of fascinating subplots and twists that are quickly dropped before they firmly take hold. That renders the story ineffective and emotionally inert, with Guerra delivering an occasionally moving performance that is undercut by a poorly developed narrative, incredibly slow pacing, and a lack of intensity. The characters seem to have been given some thought, but despite a few instances where the film offers deeper insight, both Diana and Beto remain flat. This is especially disheartening because Diana feeling like she doesn’t belong in her own community due to the language barrier — her parents never spoke to her in Spanish because they were shamed for it — paralleled Beto feeling like an outsider in the U.S. perfectly.
Exploring that aspect of Madres would have been intriguing, but it’s yet another part of the story that barely gets focus and is later dropped completely. That goes for most everything. The film wants to go in various directions, which makes it hard to figure out what it is; it’s certainly not a true horror film, that’s for sure. The scares are non-existent and any attempts at making it eerie or intense are made worse by the poor directing choices, one of which involves a split-screen to show Diana’s sense of urgency while researching.
Unfortunately, there’s no buildup and a lot of the story elements, the horror included, are treated so haphazardly it’s almost painful to watch at times. At its core, Madres isn’t really a horror at all, but it is dressed up like one. That undervalues the final moments of the film, which would have been better served had Zaragoza, and writers Ochoa and Miscione, had a firmer grip regarding what this film should be at the start. To be sure, the mystery at the center of Madres is itself intriguing, with the reveal (as well as its connection to the real-life cruelty of the U.S.) stomach-churning and horrific.
If nothing else, the film’s ending should draw audiences to further examine and question recent events, as well as the history. But as a film, Madres is unfortunately tedious and lackluster. It isn’t as invested as it initially seems in tackling the deeper story at its center or Diana as a person, and that harms the film’s message more than anything.