Mary Had A Little Lamb (2023)

Director: Jason Arber

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Starring: Danielle Scott, May Kelly, Harrison Thomas Boxley, Lila Lasso, Mark Sears, Charlie Esquér, Gillian Broderick

My review of Mary Had A Little Lamb is now available to read at Bloody Good Screen.

Considering director Jason Arber and writer Harry Boxley have named their feature after the famous nursery rhyme, it is no surprise that Mary Had A Little Lamb includes a character singing the very tune. It pops up as Mary (Christine Ann Nyland) tries soothing a bloodied woman, an act which does not work as the captive witnesses her boyfriend’s murder before a frenzied escape attempt. Any hopes of freedom are short-lived, as the frightened woman is found by a murderer dressed as a lamb.

The film then cuts to an episode of a radio show, where host Carla (May Kelly) discusses cold cases. She is startled upon discovering that listener figures are down, with her boss believing the cause is the coverage of old cases. Carla is instructed to find a recent cold case within a week, or the show is cancelled. Inspiration hits the host as she discovers an unsolved case in Warp Woods about a missing couple and takes her team to investigate. As the group become lost in the woods, they stumble across Mary’s house.

The nights sequences leave the team creeped out by Mary and her unseen son, although Carla spies an opportunity. Driven to prevent the loss of her team’s jobs, the host wishes to pin the missing persons case on the residents. Through this convoluted means, the team soon discover that the flippant suspicions are right, as Mary and her son are murderous.

Inspirations are clear throughout, from shades of Psycho as a mother stresses the importance of her son following her word, to Friday the 13th where the mother resorts to horrific lengths to protect her “different” boy. The most apparent one is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, as parallels line-up with the group intruding upon a remote home and discovering the rural nightmare involving a non-speaking masked man. The biggest difference is appearing in daylight did not shatter the terror of Leatherface, while the bright scenes just make the lamb look unfortunately laughable.

That is a symptom of this film’s biggest issue, where tension and scares feel non-existent. Not helping matters is the tiresome characterisation, with the bulk of characters being underdeveloped blank slates with a lacklustre synopsis (spare a thought for the pair relegated to “horny couple”). As they are trapped delivering generic lines, it becomes clear that there is little to care for on-screen through the dull proceedings. When the final moments explicitly rip off the haunting ending to 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one would be forgiven for wishing you rewatched Tobe Hooper’s nerve-shredding masterpiece instead of this uninspired guff.