Madres Has a Great Lesson but Not Much Else

When I sat down to watch Madres, I had high hopes for the film. It’s part of Amazon’s Welcome to the Blumhouse collection, and while Blumhouse has had its fair share of misses, they’ve also had some of the best horror hits of the past decade. On top of that, the two leads are both Hispanic, and the story is all about a community of Latin American immigrants. I’m Hispanic myself, so I was looking forward to seeing a new horror film that highlights my people and my culture. But unfortunately, Madres did not live up to my expectations. It has a few redeeming qualities, so it’s not a terrible film, but on the whole, there’s not much here to make it worth your time.

Directed by Ryan Zaragoza and starring Ariana Guerra, Tenoch Huerta, Joseph Garcia, and Elpidia Carrillo, Madres tells the story of Diana and Beto, a Mexican-American couple who are expecting their first child. They’re moving from LA to a small town in northern California, and when they arrive, a few things about the place seem a bit off. At first, they don’t think much of it, but when Diana uncovers a grisly town secret, she realizes that things are much worse than they ever imagined.

Before I tell you what I didn’t like about this film, let me begin by saying what I think it gets right. For starters, Beto and Diana are really likable characters. I was sold on them in about 10 minutes, so no matter what else was happening in the story, I always enjoyed seeing them on screen. They’re played well by Ariana Guerra and Tenoch Huerta, and the two actors have really good chemistry together. I totally bought the love between them, so I wanted their budding family to succeed.

Beto and Diana opening a box and looking scared

Secondly, Madres has a really important message. I can’t say what it is without spoiling the movie’s secrets, but I can say that it highlights a very real problem in our world today. It brings some much-needed attention to an issue that isn’t talked about much, and regardless of what I think of the film overall, I definitely applaud it for that.

But unfortunately, those two strengths are far outweighed by the big problems that plague this movie. To begin, the first half of the story is very unfocused. Like I said before, Beto and Diana’s new town seems off when they arrive, and while that’s normally a good start to a horror film, it feels like this one overdoes it.

There are just too many creepy people and places in this town, so you don’t know where the story is going. You don’t know if the house is haunted, if the weird woman who works at the religious store is more sinister than she lets on, or if the hospital is just a façade for some evil experiments. Any one of them could be true, or they could all be true, so it’s not entirely clear what the movie is actually about.

While Madres does eventually pull back the curtain and tell you what kind of film it really is, it was too little too late for me. Its lack of focus had already lost me by that point, so I no longer cared about the characters or what happened to them. And that’s a shame because it kept the message from hitting me as hard as it should have. Sure, on an intellectual level, I got what the movie was trying to say and why it’s so important, but the film didn’t make me feel it the way a good horror story should.

The Poster for Madres

On top of all that, the horror in Madres is really disappointing, as well. Probably the best thing I can say about it is that it’s not just a bunch of jump scares strung together, but unfortunately, I can’t say anything all that positive about what it actually is. It’s little more than a collection of horror clichés that have been done a million times before, so if you’ve seen your fair share of horror movies (and if you’re reading this review, you probably have), it’ll induce more yawns for you than screams.

For example, it has scary figures appearing randomly in mirrors; it has creepy, dark rooms and hallways; and there’s even a scene where one of the characters turns around and sees a ghost staring right at them. These scares all have a very “been there, done that” kind of feel to them, and unlike some better films, they’re not done well enough to overcome the lack of originality.

So at the end of the day, I’m sad to say that I can’t recommend Madres. At best, it might be worth a watch just to find out what the message is, and if it opens your eyes to a new issue that you weren’t aware of before, there’s definitely value in that. However, beyond the moral lesson, you’re probably not going to get a lot out of this film. The muddled plot and the generic scares just drag it down way too much, so if you’re looking for some good new horror to watch this Halloween season, you’re not going to find it here. Instead, I’d suggest that you check out some other recent releases like Lamb or Mike Flanagan’s fantastic new Netflix series Midnight Mass.

Madres is streaming on Amazon Prime right now.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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