Book Review: Mums + Sons

Every horror fan has, at some point, faced the question: Why?

Why do you like this stuff? Why do you want to scare yourself? Why do you want to watch people being killed by zombies/ghosts/vampires/other people/[insert your own killer here]?

It can be a hard question to answer because, at least for me, there isn’t one specific reason because the word horror covers so much.

sketches from Mums + Sons

Under the horror umbrella we have everything from Friday 13th to The Exorcist, from Rob Zombie to Ari Aster.

Sometimes you just want something fairly mindless (I’m look at you Jason Vorhees) and sometimes you want something that will stick with you and make you think. Whatever you’re looking for, horror will provide.

On the more cerebral side of the horror spectrum comes Mums + Sons, a new pocketbook from Rebecca McCallum and published by Plastic Brain Press which analyses the child/parent relationships in The Babadook, Hereditary and Psycho.

I love all three of these films – not a particularly controversial opinion – so I’m essentially fish in a barrel for McCallum.

The importance of these films in analysing the child/parent relationship is that they stand for distinct chapters in life; The Babadook (childhood), Hereditary (adolescence), and Psycho (adulthood).

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The concise and eloquent chapters in Mums + Sons tackle the child/parent relationship as an overall concept as well as drilling down into the specifics for these three films, drawing comparisons between them that I hadn’t noticed before.

The highest compliment I can pay to this pocketbook is that I was disappointed that it wasn’t longer, giving McCallum more space to go into each film in greater detail and looking at further aspects of the relationships. For example, I would be very interested to hear McCallum’s thoughts on the absent fathers in each film.

The chapters on ‘The Importance of Setting’ and ‘The Horror of Motherhood’, I found particularly interesting, but pinpointing highlights would ultimately amount to me listing off the chapters.


Sketch from Mums + Sons

It would a crime if I didn’t spend some time talking about the artwork in Mums + Sons. The images, all black and white (save for a splash of red here and there), that accompany each chapter and adorn the front cover have a horror comic sensibility. They put me in mind of some EC Comics artwork and have a sketchbook feel with their stylised inkblots and rough lines.

The importance of the artwork is not just that this is a beautiful pocketbook, but the artwork compliments the subject matter and feels thematically linked to each chapter.

Mums + Sons is a fascinating read and I would strongly urge you to order a copy if, like me, you love these films. I’m already excited to go back to these three films with McCallum’s analysis in mind and uncover some new layers to films which I know really well.

By: Ed Hartland

Order your copy of Mums + Sons here