Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View

Hidden Horrors of Peacock: The Psychological Delights of Mother, May I?

If you want an eerie, beautifully made psychological thriller, Mother, May I? has what you're looking for.

By Matthew Jackson
Anya (Holland Roden) reads with a flashlight in an attic while a monster stands behind her in Mother, May I? (2023).

Welcome to Hidden Horrors of Peacock, a monthly column spotlighting off-the-beaten-path scary movies available to watch right now on NBCUniversal's streaming service. From cult classics to forgotten sequels to indie gems you've maybe never heard of, we've got you covered.  

We're well into 2024 right now, but so many movies release in any given year these days, there's a good chance that you're still trying to catch up on worthy 2023 releases. In the realm of genre films, we certainly got plenty of great ones last year, including some very good under-the-radar films that deserve more eyes on them, particularly once they've hit streaming. Which brings us to this month's Hidden Horrors of Peacock pick: The psychological horror film Mother, May I?

Why Now Is a Great Time to Revisit Mother, May I?

Written and directed by Laurence Vannicelli, Mother, May I? (now streaming on Peacock) begins with a very familiar premise if you're someone who traffics a lot in horror stories: The inheritance of a house after a recent death. In this case, Emmett (Kyle Gallner) is inheriting the secluded home of his late mother, with whom he had a very complicated, standoffish relationship. Because he didn't exactly get along with his mother, Emmett sees the house solely as an opportunity. He can fix it up, flip it, and move on to a new life with his fiancee Anya (Holland Roden). 

But Anya isn't as ready as Emmett to let the house go completely. Convinced that Emmett is carrying some immense psychological pain tied to his mother's death, she convinces him to trip on mushrooms with her in an effort to have some kind of transcendental emotional experience that will allow him to move on. But when Emmett wakes up the next day, he finds something has changed. Anya has adopted the fashion choices, mannerisms, and judgmental tone of his mother. Is she playing an elaborate psychological game, staging an exercise to make him confront his past, or is something much darker at work?

For More Hidden Horrors of Peacock:
Hidden Horrors of Peacock: Krampus

Hidden Horrors of Peacock: Freaky
Hidden Horrors of Peacock: Hell Night

Emmett (Kyle Gallner) appears standing outside in a rearview mirror reflection in Mother, May I? (2023).

This premise is immediately striking for a number of reasons, and it starts with a sense of subversion that comes from what's really going on in this massive, eclectic home where Emmett and Anya have just arrived to deal with an inheritance. Inheritances, and moving suddenly into massive houses of various types, have been a part of horror fiction for a very long time, with good reason. The sense of unfinished business, of lingering life, and even malevolence that comes from deaths in the family creates an instant sense of dread, and Mother, May I? certainly knows how to deliver that feeling right away. Even before anything strange happens, the ghost of Emmett's mother seems to be hanging over the story, even if the film isn't necessarily a ghost story. You get the feeling that you know the particular rhythm of this narrative, and then the film reveals that you don't. 

The turn into more psychological territory that comes when Emmett finds Anya's behavior has changed is sudden, yes, but it's not jarring, because Vannicelli's script and beautifully orchestrated photography has already laid the groundwork. We don't see Emmett's mother's ghost, but we feel her, and we feel Anya's genuine, earnest need to connect with that ghost in one way or another. It's that earnestness that the film so deftly morphs into dread, and uncertainty, and outright paranoia as Anya begins to change. And from the moment Emmett wakes up to find his fiancée isn't herself, the sense of unease is palpable.

Anya (Holland Roden) bites into a brownie in Mother, May I? (2023).

This is, of course, thanks to the tremendous work of Roden and Gallner in the leading roles. For much of the film they're alone in a single location, playing off each other, feeding each other's darkness, developing moments of black comedy alongside the more cerebral tension of the piece. They're great individually, but together they create a horror experience worth savoring, making Mother, May I? the kind of movie that rewards repeat watches, just so you can catch all the intricacies of their work. 

So, if you're still playing catch-up with 2023 horror films, and you haven't seen Mother, May I?, head over to Peacock and give the film a try. Just make sure your own mommy issues are in check before you push play.

Mother, May I? is now streaming on Peacock.

Read more about: