At the halfway point of 2023, Adalynn is the latest indie horror movie to explore the darker side of motherhood. From first-time director Jacob Byrd, this tale of a new mother left alone with her infant son while increasingly strange things unfold around her follows on several 2023 horror efforts exploring motherhood including Clock, Huesera: The Bone Woman, and Run Rabbit Run. In addition, Byrd looks to channel other classic horror takes on motherhood like The Babadook and The Others. There’s no recognizable faces in this one. And very little hype proceeded its release. To date, only a handful of reviews are available but they’re mostly positive.
Following the birth of her son, Adalynn returns to her suburban home with husband Bill to start their new life together. Yet soon after settling in to motherhood, Adalynn finds herself home alone when Bill leaves for a business trip. With a history of mental health problems and unable to take her medication, Adalynn increasingly feels like she is being watched by strange forces while never being able to rule out the chance that they are not real.
Adalynn Often Finds Ways to Outstretch Its Limited Budget
For his directorial debut, Jacob Byrd and writer Jerrod D. Brito set their sites pretty high. In their story about a woman with a history of mentally struggling to adjust to motherhood, Byrd and Brito not only follow on several recent horror movies about motherhood but some ground tread on by classic movies like Repulsion, The Babadook, and Rosemary’s Baby. From its opening scene, Adalynn finds its title character optimistic as she narrates her return home following the birth of her son. Much of the first third of Adalynn is all about table-setting for the rest of the thriller. That is, Byrd and Brito plant a handful of plot bits to mull over. But it’s the possibility that ‘Adalynn’ may not be a reliable narrator that is the most immediate source of mystery.
In spite of its limited budget, Adalynn also boasts a handful of moments that find Byrd innovating somewhat with his setups and camerawork.
For at least half its runtime, Adalynn finds Byrd capably balancing a story about motherhood and mental health with the requisite horror elements. In spite of its limited budget, Adalynn also boasts a handful of moments that find Byrd innovating somewhat with his setups and camerawork. If it’s not always scary, Byrd manages to set a consistent feeling of atmosphere that’s at least uneasy. As Byrd introduces more horror imagery, he increasingly taps into the same type of paranoia generated by movies like Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. No, Adalynn never achieves the same level of tension or surreal terror.
Adalynn Compensates for Predictability With an Increasingly Convoluted Story
Though Adalynn spends about half of its runtime overachieving, the thriller runs into several problems. First and foremost, Byrd and Brito ultimately have an endpoint that feels obvious very early in the movie. As if to overcompensate for its predictable twist, Adalynn stacks on images and hints at other directions that never really take root. Some of the imagery sensibly belongs in the realm of the character’s paranoia. Yet other ideas floated onto the screen are just superfluous. There’s something of a kitchen sink feeling to the proceedings as this indie thriller becomes more and more convoluted. Moreover, the limited budget eventually impacts Adalynn to some extent.
As if to overcompensate for its predictable twist, Adalynn stacks on images and hints at other directions that never really take root.
Most of Adalynn and its story of paranoia and misdirection falls onto the shoulders of its star, Sydney Carvill. Only a handful of additional performers turn up and their roles are very small. Simply put, consistent with its title, this is Adalynn’s story and it’s a story about the burdens and fears that define motherhood for many women. And Carvill measures up to the task, delivering an earnest performance that both earns audience sympathy while also raising doubts about what she sees and believes. Most importantly, the emotional scope of the finale never outstretches Carvill.
Adalynn an Ambitious Indie Effort That Falls a Bit Short
Credit goes to Jacob Byrd for aiming high on his first, micro-budgeted effort. No, not everything works in Adalynn. In fact, this indie horror movie becomes increasingly convoluted as its story unfolds. To some extent, Byrd simply tries to do far too much with his story. In spite of the various story layers added, most astute viewers will also have the final twist figured out pretty early. Nonetheless, Byrd shows off a few inventive moments alongside a decent amount of atmosphere. And Sydney Carvill proves to be more than up to the task of carrying the story. While it doesn’t always, work, Adalynn should hold your attention from start to finish as it promises bigger things for its creative team.