I always liked The Waltons. The stories were solid and hopeful; the sets and costumes were true to their time and place; and the characters were believable archetypes from our region--the hardworking father, the crotchety granny, mischievous but goodhearted children. Each week, their drama revealed something pure about country life and optimistic about humankind.
With John Boy in mind, I leaned back, propped my laptop on my belly, and began to watch the full version of Mutzmag. The film opens with stark poverty. An ill woman is tending her garden, which is not filled with bounty but instead just a few square feet of cabbage. She is next to her room-sized shack. Inside, the walls are decorated with newsprint and her daughters sit amongst their few belongings.
From the window, the youngest--Mutzmag--sees her mother collapse. The scene cuts to the shack's single bed, where the mother says, "I hurt so bad. Lorda'mercy girls, I believe I'm a dying." And that she does. The girls burry her between her two dead husbands up the hill.
"This is off to a grim start," I thought as winter sets in and the three girls begin to starve. They head out, on foot, to find a better life. At nightfall, they knock on the door of a cabin to ask for food and lodging. I've read ""Hansel and Gretel." I knew that this would go badly, but I couldn't have imagined how badly.
I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that the director, Tom Davenport, dances on the line between family fare and a true horror flick. Think of all the dreadful things that could happen with a witch and giant in the woods. A movie from Pixar or Disney might allude to them, but they let your imagination fill the gaps, right?
Not Davenport. Cannibalism, squirrel carcasses, and a grisly scene with a dog in a tote and a very big stick--they're on the screen, and it's scary. I cringed. My belly churned. I even closed my eyes once, thinking "Lord, if Elizabeth Walton saw this, she'd wet herself."
That's probably true. Mutzmag isn't right for the little ones, but if you have kids over age twelve, this is your chance to give them a good scare and maybe promote some family bonding. After this spine chiller, you won't be calling out "goodnight" from the next room like one famous mountain family. Your whole brood will be huddled right there in bed beside you.