First it was fairy tale horror, then the drug-fueled animal horror and now it appears the next trend in horror will be…nursery rhymes? Director Jason Arber and Uncork’d Entertainment bring us Mary Had a Little Lamb, the first of two nursery rhyme horror films to be released this month. In Mary Had a Little Lamb, Carla, the host of a cold case crime radio show, is faced with possible cancellation due to dwindling numbers. In a desperate attempt to keep her job and the jobs of those who work for her, she sets out with her team to investigate a series of disappearances. The trail leads them to a remote location in the woods where they discover the home of Mary, an elderly woman who lives with her son. Thinking they may have a story that is bigger than the disappearances, Carla decides the team should stay the night. Little do they know that Mary’s “Lamb” is not what they think and soon they find themselves trying to escape the real-life nightmare they have stumbled into.
Mary Had a Little Lamb, is as if A24’s Lamb and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a child. The film has a solid tension-filled opening sequence that lets you know what kind of ride you’re on. Arbor delivers on the creepiness, and the concept puts a nice little twist on your standard backwoods slasher story. It does follow many of the same tropes and it wears its Texas Chainsaw Massacre influences on its sleeve, especially in a particular dinner scene late and at the ending. I didn’t mind these homages because they did not feel forced. Once the group enters Mary’s house, there is a consistently maintained creepy atmosphere. Add to it the excellent lighting and camera work and Mary’s house is a legit scary horror setting.
May Kelly puts in a solid performance as Carla. You feel her desperation and the unfair position she has been put in. Kelly helps you feel some sympathy, along with frustration with the character due to some rash decisions. Thanks to Kelly’s acting, you see her energy change from desperation to obsession with Mary‘s story. Kelly is no stranger to being in movies with an animal theme. She was in Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey recently as well as other monster films. This experience helped her sell the terror she faces at the hands of Mary’s “Lamb”. The rest of the cast do well, though most are your standard slasher fodder characters. The stand out performance for me was Christine Ann Nyland. Nyland’s Mary is a sweetly sinister individual who will make your skin crawl while enjoying her delicious tea. There is a reason behind her madness that, while cliche, does bring another layer to what could have been a one note character. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where it was just Carla and Mary. Kelly and Nyland brought real tension to their scenes together.
One of the things that could use improvement was the editing. It could have been tighter to have less confusion and distraction within some of the scenes, and to improve continuity perception. The audio could have also been better. Normally for indie films the audio is too quiet but in this case, the dialog in particular was too prominent and you could tell it was re-recorded in a studio. The overall look of the film is sharp. It does not show its budget and visually it was well done. Especially in the production design of the house, where the attic almost resembles a barn aesthetic.
Mary Had a Little Lamb was far better than expected. At its core it is a basic backwoods slasher film but given the unusual slasher and the character of Mary, it helps it stand out a bit more than most gimmicky horror. I think if you are looking for something unusual to put on your 31 Days of Horror list, you will want to check it out. Mary Had a Little Lamb hits VOD October 3rd.
I have been reviewing films since high school. I love discussing films with those who share my passion for them. I also do video reviews on YouTube and on my podcast.