Of course, the mere mention of Oedipus – and the corresponding psychological issues covered by the Oedipus Complex – might conjure up the sentiment that such relationships only offer negative prospects; but nothing could be further from the truth. A good number of films, novels, and stories have shown that there is plenty of benefits to having a strong, nurturing, and supportive mother rearing her male child in ways that produced – eventually – an adult capable of interacting with society-at-large. Still, that stereotype of mothers messing up their sons persists, especially as it applies to wives rehabilitating their new husbands to precisely how the house is going to be run. While a good deal of this is more likely intended as playful poking and prodding, let us all never forget that there’s a grain of truth in every rumor.
Horror is the genre that probably gets the best mileage out of exploring the dark side of mother/son bonding as there have been a great number of entries that have used this backdrop to ratchet up the fears of men and women alike. In this regard, 2022’s Spoonful Of Sugar amps up some of the tension by centering on the performances of two ladies – the biological mother and an emotionally-scarred nanny – as they find themselves torn between the love of a young boy and a philandering father. Because this is Horror, there’s further spice added to this experience, but it never strays far from the central question of just what it takes to create a lasting connection between the momma bear and her growing cub … especially when all involved are already balancing the demands of other, less acceptable appetites.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Millicent is taking a semester off from her studies to concentrate on her thesis about children with severe allergies, which makes her the perfect person to take care of little Johnny, a sickly, mute child who suffers from every allergy under the sun, from nickel to artificial fabric. His overbearing mother, Rebecca, is an accomplished author who is focused on her latest book release, while his dissatisfied father, Jacob, spends sweaty, shirtless days toiling away on a carpentry project in the backyard.”
For those who’ve heard of her, Mary Poppins – as played by screen legend Julie Andrews and featured in the 1964 film of the same name – became society’s quintessential role model for nannies across decades. In the famed musical, Andrews sang that all it took was a “spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down,” and – certainly – there’s more than a bit of passing irony in titling this 2022 Horror/Thriller with similar sentiments. Whereas Poppins was – quite literally – talking about using sugar, her contemporary child-rearing counterpart Millicent (played by Morgan Saylor who is damn ravishing here as the ‘poison ivy’ character) prefers Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (aka LSD) to accomplish the same. And, yes, to add a bit of insult to injury, young Millie is – quite literally – spiking a child’s medicine with LSD!
How do you like them apples, Walt Disney?
But because this is Horror – and Horror can never be content with such prosaic circumstances – there’s far more to uncork in this smart potboiler from director Mercedes Bryce Morgan and screenwriter Leah Saint Marie. Millicent, it would seem, is the product of the flawed foster care system; and she’s harboring more than just her secret penchant for hallucinogens. In fact, the rather bookish young woman has a small trail of bodies in her past – failed foster pairings have given her no choice but to murder those who’ve made her like only increasingly difficult. More than a bit unbalanced, she’ll stop at nothing to fill that void in her cosmic soul by ‘adopting’ Johnny as her very own as well as seducing Jacob into giving her the sexual attention she so desperately craves.
Oh … if it all stopped there …
As I said, this is Horror, so audiences can rest assured nothing so conventional would ever suffice. At this point, Morgan and Marie truly crack open the nuthouse into one ghastly reveal after another. Millicent’s flexible moral code and the desire to complete herself only encourages the broken young woman to take more desperate measures, even going so far as to encourage the child to turn violent on his mother. Those watching closely might suspect that this isn’t the boy’s first rodeo – so to speak – as the signs are present with increasing alarm. And since the apple never falls far from the tree, Millie should’ve given this young couple a closer examination, and even she might’ve seen the signs reminding her that there’s always – always – a bigger mousetrap.
Still, Sugar works – and goes down – easily for those of us who appreciate what the genre does with such stories and their accompanying characters. However, I’d encourage folks to keep in mind that given entirely what’s learned I suspect – in reality – such a bloody affair would’ve been caught if not suspected much earlier. When young folks – those with plenty of friends and families – go missing, there are usually pals concerned, the kind who’ll even turn over a few stones on their own to find out what happened. That doesn’t appear to be the case in this small(ish) town – in fact, there’s apparently zero interest anywhere – and that’s just a bit of a narrative buzzkill.
In the finale, there’s definitely more to think about than merely girl power gone bad, but the closing scenes certainly leave one with the suggestion that the family that slays together stays together.
Spoonful Of Sugar (2022) was produced by Vanishing Angle. According to a quick Google.com search, the film is presently available for rental on a variety of streaming platforms including Roku, Spectrum TV, and Amazon’s Prime Video. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the film’s various sights-and-sounds were exceptional; there are a few moments of drug-affected lucidity that might require viewers to watch closely to catch them all, so be warned. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? As I viewed this via streaming, there were no extras to consider.
Of any genre, Horror is the one that requires the greatest suspension of disbelief for the audience, and Spoonful Of Sugar – reasonably predictably – is no different. Once you get past the nagging reality that these events likely couldn’t unfold without police intervention, then you’re left with an otherwise effective potboiler about just how far two women will go to find both love and acceptance from the men in their respective lives. And it’s only in the realm of Horror that the central lesson can be learned: all mommy needed to do to connect with her troubled son was to go a little homicidal.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Shudder provided me with complimentary streaming access to Spoonful Of Sugar by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.