Baby Ruby – Review
The tightly scripted world of a vlogger and influencer unravels after she becomes a mother, in noted playwright Bess Wohl's feature debut.
You Also May Like
Welcome to Knockout Horror. We are back with another Horror Movie Review. Today we are reviewing the fairly new horror movie Baby Ruby. Baby Ruby focuses on the story of a vlogger’s terrifying experience as a first time mother. We have covered a few social media influencer themed horror. This movie doesn’t seem to really fit with the others we have covered, though. Directed and written by Bess Wohl. Baby Ruby is far more of a horror adjacent than an actual horror movie. I feel like I have been saying this a lot since starting this site. Themes of postpartum depression. Combined with the societal pressure placed on new mothers take centre stage. The horror element is, really, an afterthought..
Rarely has a movie started with so much promise. Only to squander it in such spectacular fashion. This is a confused mess of a movie that will likely frustrate and disappoint in equal measures. A promising opening third of the film. Quickly gives way to poor direction, a confused narrative and predictable outcomes. Without further ado, let’s take a look. As always, I will give a quick breakdown which you can skip if you like.
Baby Ruby – Synopsis
Baby Ruby follows the story of social media influencer Jo. Jo is heavily pregnant with her first child. Not ready to put her day to day life on the backburner. Jo is working hard on home renovations and updating her blog. When she goes into labour, the difficult realities of motherhood become all too real. Jo’s baby, Ruby, will not stop crying and she begins to grow paranoid about the people around her. When the baby bites her, drawing blood. Jo believes there is something seriously wrong with Ruby.
Baby Ruby opens as something of a satirical take on new parenthood. Jo is absolutely not ready to leave her prior life behind. She loves alcohol, she is a workaholic and she enjoys her life. Jo is baffled at how well people, seemingly, handle motherhood. She cannot stop her child from crying. Other mums seem to have no problem. When she asks for advice, they tell her to “trust her instincts”. The problem is, Jo doesn’t think she has any parental instincts. She thinks the baby is angry at her. She is struggling to connect and terrified of anything happening to Ruby.
Baby Ruby – Satirical and Pretty Amusing
Jo forms a friendship with a group of new mums. The constant crying of Ruby seems even louder compared to the silence of the other mum’s children. The group head out on a mother baby run. The sight of Jo running far ahead of the other mums is hilarious. Her attempts to hide Ruby’s crying provides a decent chuckle. It is a witty and apt metaphor for how avoiding the group is easier than facing their judgement. When Baby Ruby is comically raising an eyebrow to the expected norms of motherhood. It is at its best. As a satirical and tongue in cheek drama about the expectations of new mothers. It is entertaining and wickedly sharp.
As time goes on, the drama begins to give way to a few horror elements. Ruby’s cries echo, continuously, in Jo’s head. She becomes trapped between a place of wanting to protect Ruby and wanting to harm her. She is paranoid and becomes suspicious of everyone around her. The viewer takes part in something of a rollercoaster ride alongside Jo. Her world flips upside down and she sees evil everywhere. It seems as though the people who should be helping her are scheming against her. Be it friends, her mother-in-law, her husband or even a doctor.
Baby Ruby – Paranoid Psychological Horror
Jo leaves the hospital wearing a maternity sun-dress. This immediately conjures up memories of Rosemary’s Baby. The similarities between Baby Ruby and the aforementioned horror classic don’t end there. This is a film that is attempting to channel that specific type of psychological horror. Jo’s newfound parental responsibilities have come with a realisation. Nobody helps mothers. In, what is, a stark contrast to the manner in which people dote on the expecting. New mothers face dealing with the baby, often, completely alone.
Jo’s inability to connect with her child. Combined with the strange reactions of the people around her form the basis of the horror. Much like the titular protagonist in Rosemary’s Baby. Jo feels completely alone and terrified of the intentions of the people around her. A crippling tiredness blurs the lines between reality for both Jo and the viewer. It is an exhausting experience, much like being a new mother. Unfortunately, the blurring of the lines of reality are where the problems start. From there on, Baby Ruby finds itself in something of a downward spiral.
Baby Ruby – An Important Narrative
It bears mention that Baby Ruby’s narrative is an important one. The pressures placed, particularly, on new mothers can have a seriously damaging effect. There is a societal expectation for a mother to immediately bond with their baby. Mothers are expected to, not only, accept the responsibilities that come with parenthood. They are supposed to embrace them with open arms and a smile. Mothers often feel as though there is no help on offer when facing complications. What if they don’t immediately bond with their child? Where do they turn if their new found responsibilities are too much? What if they miss their life before having children? How do they cope with changes in their body?
These are all very important topics. The subject of postpartum depression is, perhaps, more relevant now than ever. In a world where intimate social interactions are a rare commodity. Replaced by hollow words and empty sentiment conveyed through social media. New mother’s likely feel even more judged and even less able to ask for help. There is an expectation to post pictures of your new born child in each stage of growth. Status updates absolutely must reflect the utter joy of being a new parent. The world unequivocally has to know just how happy you are. You definitely can’t let the cracks show. You definitely can’t complain or ask people how they cope. We live in a world of expectation and judgement. Something that must be incredibly difficult for new mothers.
Baby Ruby – Extremely Disjointed and Messy
Wohl approaches this subject with a mix of wit and deadly seriousness. The tongue in cheek observations pass quickly. They give way to something far darker. Something far closer to the realities of postpartum psychosis. A reality that many mothers face each and every year. Unafraid of approaching the complex subject of filicidal thoughts in new mothers. Wohl deserves praise for telling a story that many are afraid to tell. The unfortunate reality of Baby Ruby, however, is one of unrealised potential.
When watching this movie, particularly towards the second half. There is a distinct feeling of a director out of their depth. The narrative comes undone and performances begin to feel less convincing. It is incredibly disappointing. Events take place in a manner that feels thoroughly disjointed. There is an almost random nature to what you see on screen. A distinct attempt to make the viewer share in Jo’s feelings of confusion falls flat. The result is a sense of fatigue and frustration at, what is, an abundance of continuity issues.
Jo’s paranoia is depicted by things that may or may not have happened. Unlike movies that present a similar style of narrative, such as The Shining. Baby Ruby’s presentation is confused and horribly ambiguous. You never actually know what happens and what doesn’t happen. It leaves the viewer with a feeling of inconsequence to the things they are seeing. Why should the viewer care? It is just a collection of scenes that play no greater part in the overall plot.
Baby Ruby – Poorly Executed Horror Element
The above wouldn’t be such a problem if the events were well executed and interesting. They simply aren’t. It has all been done before, only much better. Tension and atmosphere here are absolutely non-existent. Scenes are presented to add a horror element to the movie. They feel both poorly executed and lacking in actual reasons to care. It is horror trope followed by horror trope.
Wohl attempts to discombobulate through the sound of constant crying. It actually just frustrates and makes for a more difficult watch. A dog chewing a bloody bone is another early sign of how this movie will treat the viewer. A nod to Fatal Attraction’s boiling pot scene reminds you, this is a horror that borrows liberally. By the fourth “Was it a dream or was it reality?” scene you will be rolling your eyes. The sad thing is, there are another six to ten scenes like this to follow. It is horribly repetitive and gets old incredibly quickly.
This isn’t a horror movie and horror isn’t the correct genre for such important subject matter. The utter lack of consequence in these scenes makes the movie difficult to invest in. I understand the story being told here. I think it is an important one. Shoe horning in horror elements to make the movie appeal to genre fans is a big misstep, though. As I have mentioned with movies such as Relic. Average drama movie writers push horror elements to fit the genre. An average, middling, drama makes for an above average horror. That’s the way it has always been. It’s frustrating to see as the under developed drama aspects and cliche writing are a tough sell. Especially if the horror elements don’t work.
Baby Ruby – Acting is a Mixed Bag
Acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Noémie Merlant, as Jo, is expected to carry the movie. She is really good for some of the movie’s runtime. As the situation becomes more severe, however, her performance weakens. The more melodramatic the movie becomes, the more she chews the scenery. Earlier scenes where she manages to deliver the movie’s biting satire perfectly. Quickly become a distant memory. They are replaced by unbelievable reactions and low-grade horror acting. This is particularly true when Jo is angry at Ruby. The scenes lack any kind of gravity. At least part of this has to be down to weak directing. I don’t know how Merlant could possibly understand her character’s motivations. They are so poorly defined for much of the movie. The narrative is very confused.
Kit Harrington, as Jo’s husband Spencer, is okay. It’s one of those incredibly by the numbers performances. The role could have been played by any actor. There is so little nuance in it. I am sure Game of Thrones fans will enjoy seeing him, though. His accent does slip on a few occasions. I really disliked his tendency to speak in a strange, breathy, manner. Do people actually speak like that in real life? It sounded like he was doing the voice over on an old Calvin Klein ad or something. He kind of looked a little bored throughout.
I loved Jayne Atkinson as Spencer’s mum Doris. She was fantastic and added a ton of humour to the movie. Her comedic timing was spot on. She was also fantastic when tasked with being deadly serious. Meredith Hagner, as Shelly, was fine. She does a good job of portraying the picture perfect new mother. She has a few comedic moments of note, as well.
Baby Ruby – Very Gloomy and Poor Direction
Cinematography here is a bit of a weird issue for me. It’s not at all bad but it is so dreary that the movie is legitimately ugly to look at. I understand that this is likely to reflect Jo’s situation. But there is no use of brighter lighting or wider shots to highlight happier times. It’s all just very grey. The movie feels like it was filmed under a canopy of trees. It is shadowy and very gloomy. This is particularly true of the movie’s final scenes. There is just nothing of note here. It is a very boring shoot.
Direction is obviously a problem in Baby Ruby. The continuity of the movie feels incredibly messy. Scenes are presented as a dream before being retconned only to then be presented as a dream once more. It’s very strange. There is no definition between these scenes. They are just liberally spattered all over the picture. The constant crying baby soundtrack is obnoxious. Whether you are a kid person or not, this will make your ears bleed. The combination of the crying baby with the dream like sequences is deliberate. That’s obvious. It is supposed to make the viewer share in Jo’s feeling of confusion and tiredness. It actually just frustrates and makes the movie a horribly difficult watch. After a promising first 20 minutes, it is woefully disappointing.
Is it a Knockout?
Baby Ruby is a disappointing horror movie with an important message. Focusing on the societal pressures placed on new mothers. Jo's story of struggling to adapt to life as a parent is easy to sympathise with. The reality is, however, that the horror genre is probably not the best place for this story. The shoe horned in elements of horror are the start of Baby Ruby's downfall.
Chock full of tropes, this is a movie with no new ideas. Everything here has been passed down straight from Rosemary's Baby to Ruby. It is all painfully familiar, from the paranoia to the seen-it-all-before horror elements. You will quickly grow tired of asking was it a dream or was it reality. The complete lack of definition between these scenes makes the movie feel messy and confused. It's all just very disappointing. There is an interesting and important story in here somewhere. To find it, you will have to get past poor directing and worn out horror faux-pas. Oh... and the sound of a baby screaming for nearly the entire length.
Trailer: Baby Ruby
|Release Date:||3rd February 2023|
|Movie Type:||Horror, Drama, Thriller|
|Movie Length:||93 Min|
|Starring:||Noémie Merlant, Kit Harington, Meredith Hagner, Jayne Atkinson,|
|Directed By:||Bess Whol|
|Written By:||Bess Wohl|
|Produced By:||Alex Saks, Lauren Beveridge, Brett Beveridge, Jeffrey Penman|
|Parental Guidance:||Language, violence, violence to children, nudity, gore, upsetting scenes|