Mary Had a Little Lamb (2023)
A radio host and her crew set out to discover the truth behind some disappearances for a true crime show. They will soon learn that there is far more to …
Written by Harry Boxley
Directed by Jason Arber
A horror reimagining of the famous tale… Mary Had A Little Lamb.
Hot on the heels of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey comes another attempt to adapt a childhood favourite into a gory slasher. This time around it is ‘Mary had a Little Lamb,’ an innocent, late 19th century nursery rhyme about Mary Elizabeth Sawyer and her little lamb whose fleece truly was white as snow.
This version is far from the innocent, school-going lamb from the nursery rhyme, and I would be surprised if the little lamb in the movie ever had a fleece as clean as that.
May Kelly plays Carla, the host of a cold-case podcast on a local radio show who is one decent story away from losing her job and her show. She pulls her team together to investigate a series of disappearances in a local forest and hopes that this will be the story to save them all from the unemployment office.
Obviously they get lost and stumble across an isolated house in the middle of the forest, inhabited by the slightly odd Mary (Christine Ann Nyland) and her ‘Little Lamb’; her mysterious son who is asleep upstairs.
Forced to stay the night (will people ever learn?) the team poke their noses in where they shouldn’t and find themselves at the mercy of Mary, her Little Lamb… and his axe.
And that is pretty much all you need to know about MHALL, it’s a slasher that just wanted to get a load of people in one place to kill them off in variously gruesome ways. And it does this to varying levels of success.
It opens fast with murders onscreen in a matter of minutes (maybe even seconds) and some suitably gruesome and icky physical gore, before settling back to introduce us to the next set of victims. We know these people are going to suffer, that’s really what the film is about and MHALL doesn’t disappoint on that front, but it struggles elsewhere.
The acting is variable across the cast. Kelly plays Carla well and Nyland is suitable wacky as Mary. As “little Lamb” Gaston Alexander doesn’t have much to do other than grunt and swing an axe, but some of the other characters struggle to convince and that hits home as a reminder that this is a low budget production.
Not that a low budget automatically means low quality and Arber does a good job with the direction, leading the team to pull off a film that visually belies its low budget. Atmospheric and gory enough to keep most gore hounds happy, MHALL is a simple film that does exactly what it says on the tin, but no more. To this end, we’ve seen it all before; creepy houses, lost companions, hidden secrets, cars that won’t start, and stupid decisions etc. etc.; MHALL covers all the usual tropes. If you want women running from a murderer and falling over so he can catch them, then this is the one for you. You need tropes in horror, I am not denying that, but MHALL could have done more to subvert and twist them into something different and unexpected.
The idea behind MHALL is superbly weird and Mary’s backstory and how she got her son was pretty dark – this isn’t simply some nutjob in a mask, this is seriously creepy stuff – and I would have liked more about that, more about Little Lamb, and for the film to reflect his backstory in his killing. Sadly, this is a missed opportunity and Little Lamb simply ends up as another generic killer without any real motivation….who just so happens to have the head of a sheep.
MHALL isn’t a terrible film, it just didn’t show me anything I haven’t seen before and that goes for the ending more than anything, which was a blatant rip off of an absolute horror classic. I won’t tell you which as that would spoil things, but it is one you really need to live up to if you are going to ape it. When you consider the advice to writers to “know your ending” before you start writing, this makes MHALL feel like the team saw a good ending to copy and then just worked out the quickest way to get there via an axe-murdering 6ft sheep. Tribute or rip-off? I am not quite clear.
As a simple slasher, MHALL works okay, but don’t expect to find a cinematic wolf hidden in this sheep’s clothing. Probably not one to rush out and rent, but something to catch up on when free even if just a showreel for the potential of the team that made it.
Mary Had a Little Lamb is available on DVD and digital now.