"You feel on the edge of your seat..." Director Adam O’Brien on his new horror, Mom

“You feel on the edge of your seat…” Director Adam O’Brien on his new horror, Mom

Director Adam O’Brien talks about his upcoming horror, Mom, and casting Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire in the titular role…


Starring Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire and The Borgias François Arnaud, upcoming horror, Mom, follows a struggling mother who is abandoned by her family and partner after a horrific incident. As she falls further into isolation, she begins to be haunted by a sinister entity that is determined to make her relive her darkest moments.

The movie gets its world premiere at this year’s Glasgow Frightfest, and we sat down with Mom director Adam O’Brien to take a deep dive into horror…

How did everything start for you with Mom?

I had this idea of making a movie about an inner creature and your inner demons. I wanted to tell a story about inner demons. When speaking to writer Philip Kalin-Hajdu, he shared that he had been long inspired by his wife, a nurse, who was speaking with patients with postpartum depression. The stories were harrowing. He wanted to explore the imbalance of relationships and the (mis)understanding between the couple around the time of childbirth. He has two kids and we spoke a lot about the crazy ups and downs of those early days. At the core, it was important to keep this based in reality, research and tap into relatable tension. 

So that’s what we did! The movie is not real obviously but we wanted to do something based on reality, have a grounded character who can live the real stuff, but in overdrive. Like what could happen if this was covered with a blanket of supernatural and some horror elements?

What stood out about Emily Hampshire taking on the central role in Mom?

We loved her obviously in Schitts Creek, but also in 12 Monkeys and a few other projects that I saw from her.

Phil had written the character with Emily in mind. We went through a minimal casting process but kept coming back to her. We were thrilled that she said yes. Her talent was a given but she still surprised us on set. It was a discovery. She has since done a lot more horror and continues to show how versatile she is.

She was amazing. She totally understood the character. She totally understood the story and she totally understood how to bring that to life for a character.

Emily Hampshire takes on the titular role in Mom.

What kind of scares can audiences expect?

Strangely enough, the very first horror element you can feel is the real horror from the character. Because it is something that is based in reality, it’s grounded. You feel the anxiety and you feel on the edge of your seat.

After that what you can expect from the general horror side is small details that will make horror fans say ‘oh my god. Okay, that was scary. That was a scary moment’.

Without giving too much away, we wanted to integrate the house as it decays into the arc of Meredith’s story. They are inextricable from each other. The house centipedes, which can be found in most homes, start to become more numerous as the house and their family fall apart. They become a sign or a trigger for something malevolent to come. 

We never see Meredith leave the house – and it’s the key element to her story.

You’ve worked on a number of horror projects, what is it about this space that appeals to you as a filmmaker?

I grew up with that genre. When I was a kid, that was cool to watch on a Saturday night. Having the fear and the special effects at the time. Like when you rewatch Evil Dead, oh my god, that’s amazing: More blood! That’s great and it’s always fascinated me.

At the same time, horror is a good reflection of society at the time when it happened. For me. when I watch horrors from the Eighties it means something. When I watch horrors from the Nineties, suddenly they’re all teen horror films – Final Destination or Scream. It’s all that era, and I love that time. I love the slasher aspect of it. One of the good slashers that we had in the cinema in the Eighties was the first Friday The 13th because it’s not about Jason. It’s about a mother and that imprinted on my childhood. I was like, ‘okay, horror, I want to do that’.

But there are different kinds of horror. So what kind of horror can you do? You can go bloody and very gory. You can go with ghosts, you can go with jumpscares, you can go with psychological. I love all those aspects.

When I did short films. I wanted to try something [different] all the time. I didn’t do ‘oh this is a story I want to tell’. No, I built a story just to try something. A Little Off The Top was a shot film where a hairdresser is talking to someone. That’s easy. It’s just a monologue of nine minutes. But it’s horror because we finish on a bang. I wanted to see how we could play psychologically with the audience.

But also at the same time I wanted to try a creature film. Banshee is a creature movie. I never did that before but in my past as a post-production and visual effects guy, I was like, ‘okay, how can I explore making a creature with visual effects and a puppeteer?’ That creature is a mix between a real person, a puppet and visual effects. That led to a very cool story with a little girl.

The first horror element you can feel in Mom is the real horror from the main character.

What do you want audiences to take away from the movie?

I hope the movie scares, but more importantly, I am pleased that so far it is provoking a lot of meaningful conversations. We have had audience members describe their own experiences with postpartum depression. We have had people cry, and others just sit in silence processing it all. Others get excited discussing the layers and imagery and get into debates on their theories of what meant what and when. This is why I wanted to make films.

So I think that’s what I would like. For people to get the emotion, get the fear, get the intention, get the anxiety, but at the end of the day: talk. Fingers crossed that me and my team successfully did that.

Mom receives its world premiere at Glasgow FrightFest on 9 March 2024. Find the full line-up here.