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Mother!: the horror classics lurking behind Darren Aronofsky’s insane new chiller


Bursting onto screens this Friday is Darren Aronofsky's new horror Mother! – and if reactions from the Venice Film Festival are anything to go by, you can expect something truly bonkers.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star as an (unnamed) married couple whose existence is disrupted by the arrival of two menacing strangers (also unnamed). They're played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, and very soon Lawrence's character is slipping down the rabbit hole of insanity.

Critics have said the movie refuses to explain itself to audiences. Rather it throws the audience into an atmosphere of deranged madness that hits even more jaw-dropping heights towards the climax.

Looking to immerse yourselves in a shocking and memorable movie experience? The following influences may indicate what to expect...

Rosemary's Baby

Roman Polanski's landmark satanic chiller brought the horror to chic Manhattan – but it's the movie's themes of corrupted motherhood that really matter here.

Mia Farrow plays the afflicted title character who believes the father of her child may be not of this Earth – a clear influence on Aronofsky's movie that, as the title implies, delves into the parental anxieties of Lawrence's persecuted wife.

The Shining

Reports indicate that Mother!'s atmosphere is relentlessly intense and uncomfortable. It clearly owes a debt to the escalating claustrophobia and panic of Stanley Kubrick's classic Stephen King horror, one that strands Jack Nicholson in a snowbound hotel with terrifying results.

Plus, Bardem's character in Mother! is a writers'-blocked poet, bearing more than a few comparisons with Nicholson's tortured writer.

Black Swan

Of course, Aronofsky is just as likely to be influenced by his own back catalogue. His hysterical and brilliant ballet chiller from 2011 bears the most similarities with Mother!, in that the central character finds themselves being consumed by fears and doubts, the camerawork and editing engulfing both them and the viewer.

Will Lawrence's performance match the intensity of Natalie Portman's Oscar-winning turn? It remains to be seen.

Funny Games

Michael Haneke's deeply disturbing home invasion chiller was remade by the director in 2007 with Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Whichever version you watch it's not an experience that slips from the mind easily as a couple and their offspring are tormented in their home by two psychopaths.

It's an exercise in cruelty that at one point even rewinds itself to change the outcome of a certain event. By the time Lawrence's home in Mother! is invaded by Harris and Pfeiffer, the comparisons with Funny Games are more than evident.

Kill List

In 2011 Free Fire's Ben Wheatley announced himself as a director of repute with this skin-crawling British horror. It begins as a relatively straightforward hitman tale but by the end balloons into full-on Wicker Man style pagan horror – a dramatic shift that Mother! would seem to borrow from, namely in the trailer shot of hordes of black-cloaked strangers (including a menacing Kristen Wiig, of all people).

The House of the Devil

Not many know about this one, but Ti West's slow-burning chiller is perhaps one of the most direct influences on Mother!

Creaky old draft house? Check. Young woman in peril? Check. Slow escalation of creepy imagery building to a climatic explosion of horror? Check.

Are you prepared? Then click here to book your tickets for Mother!, opening this Friday.

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