After being nominated for her first Oscar at the ripe young age of 20, winning her first trophy at 22, and being nominated twice more by 25, J. Law undoubtedly has her pick of projects to work on next… which is what makes the mother! teaser starring Jennifer Lawrence so surprising. Usually actors work on many genre films before make their way through prestige films and an Oscar win. However, the Hunger Games actress is taking the opposite tack; with an Academy Award already under her belt, she's going in for a good old-fashioned fright flick. But has Jennifer Lawrence ever done a horror movie before?
Lawrence's only official foray into the horror genre before mother! was the little-seen House At The End Of The Street. Although it was filmed in 2010, around the same time as Winter's Bone, the movie didn't end up getting released until September of 2012, sandwiched between her star-making turn in The Hunger Games (out in March of that year) and her future Oscar-winning role in Silver Linings Playbook (out in November). The film featured Lawrence as an unsuspecting girl whose family moved into a house down the street from the site of a grisly murder, and who unwisely befriends the sole survivor (played by Bates Motel's Max Thieriot). The House At The End Of The Street garnered a 11 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and flopped at the box office.
Of course, mother! isn't your typical slasher fare; the mysterious movie was written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, himself an Oscar nominee for helming 2010's Black Swan, which landed Natalie Portman a win for Best Actress that year. (You may also know him from his work on acclaimed films such as Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler, and Noah.) The plot of Arronofsky's collaboration is being kept tightly under wraps; all that's known is that mother! also stars Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, and Kristen Wiig, one supremely vague official summary ("A couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence"), and this artful (if gruesome) poster.
But even if you'd known that Aronofsky's new film was "horror," you'd be forgiven for assuming that the horror would be of the more psychological variety on display in Black Swan. But the 30-second mother! teaser puts the lie to that theory, with the footage advertising what looks like an honest-to-goodness scary movie complete with creepy house, bloody murders, and a leading lady with a healthy set of lungs.
Most of the teaser consists of a prolonged shot of Lawrence wandering through an empty house, while disturbing dialogue murmurs in the background, unsettling for being so out-of-context. "What brings you to us?" Lawrence asks. "They told me I could find room here," Harris responds. "He thought we were a bed and breakfast," Bardem offers helpfully. The dialogue grows increasingly more frantic, building up to Lawrence shouting, "You're insane! Murderer!!"just as the footage explodes into a frenzy of quick cuts, including glimpses of a body being engulfed in flames, a dying housefly, Lawrence screaming, a lightbulb exploding, and somebody hitting someone else in the head from behind, and Bardem shouting.
It's interesting that a star as high-profile and acclaimed as Lawrence would be drawn to a horror movie, even one with the pedigree of a filmmaker like Aronofsky behind it. Interestingly, this actually isn't the actor's first time delving into the genre. Obviously, the Hunger Games series had elements of horror to them — particularly the first film, which saw children forced to kill other children for the amusement of a corrupt government. And Winter's Bone, the 2010 indie drama that landed Lawrence her inaugural Oscar nod, often felt like it could tip into outright horror at any point, as her character navigated the unforgiving landscape of the drug-addled Ozarks looking for her missing father.
Hopefully, mother! will be a much more successful foray into the genre for Lawrence than her previous attempt. And after the recent critical successes of such high-brow, female-fronted horror fare as The Babadook, It Follows, and The Witch, it's no surprise that Lawrence would be willing to take the leap again, especially with someone like Aronofsky to guide the way. But will it lead to a fifth nomination? The Academy acknowledging horror movies isn't unheard of; just ask Jodie Foster or Kathy Bates (who won Best Actress for The Silence Of The Lambs and Misery, respectively).
mother! will certainly be a film for both horror fans and Oscar fans alike to keep an eye on this fall.