Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mother's Day (2010)

Mum's The Word

With every horror film from the 70s and 80s being remade these past few years, it was inevitable that Mother's Day would find itself in a modern retelling. The low-budget 1980 rape/revenge horror directed by Charles Kaufman (brother of Troma's Lloyd Kaufman) was made for a meager $150,000 and has become a staple among the cult community for its savage depictions of violence against women by a family of hillbillies who are egged on by their lunatic of a mother. It also featured great revenge elements as two of the female victims return the favor by distributing some gritty justice on their captors. So leave it to Darren Lynn Bousman, director of gore-heavy films like Saw II, III, and IV, as well as Repo! The Genetic Opera to take the helm on Mother's Day's modern adaptation. Wiping out nearly the entire plot of the original film, Bousman has managed to craft an effective thriller that puts a twist on the popular home-invasion scenario, but still offers up all of the violence and terror you would expect from someone who directed Jigsaw.

Beth and Daniel Sohapi aren't the luckiest married couple in the world. They recently lost their son in an accident, and Beth (Jaime King, My Bloody Valentine 3D), who is still severely depressed, also suspects that Daniel is cheating on her. To top things off, they've moved into a new house, and on the night of their housewarming party, the city is under a tornado watch. Regardless, their guests don't seem to mind the weather, and Beth puts on her best happy face and tries to socialize with her friends. Meanwhile, three brothers are on the run after a botched bank heist has left the youngest seriously injured and the brothers double-crossed by a partner who stole the loot. Unable to reach their mother, they decide to head home to figure out their next step. As luck would have it, this is the new home of Beth and Daniel, who bought the house two months ago after its previous owner faced foreclosure. Confused and angry, the eldest brother, Ike (Patrick Flueger, Kill Theory), along with his short-tempered sibling, Addley (Warren Kole, 24), take firm control of the party, enlisting the help of Beth's doctor-friend George (Shawn Ashmore, Frozen) to take care of the ailing Johnny (Matt O'Leary, Frailty) until their mother and sister arrive. Of course, when Mother does arrive, things at the house only get worse, as the guests are violently pitted against each other for survival and both Beth and Daniel's deepest secrets begin to surface.

The biggest attraction to the film is the performance by Rebecca De Mornay (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) as Mother, who brings an uncomfortable calm to the chaos that's happening around her. She speaks in an almost sympathetic tone with an underlying strictness that makes you feel like everything is going to be okay...but only if you behave yourself and do exactly what she says. This doesn't mean she's afraid to get her hands dirty, however, as her children obey her every deviant command, with the exception of her daughter, Lydia (the utterly beautiful Deborah Ann Woll, True Blood), who is the only sibling with a fraction of a conscience that's consistently prodded by George in an effort to turn her on the family. King also turns in her usual manic performance, but really shines in the film's third act when she reveals her secrets to Mother which leads to an all out brawl between the two. The film also makes great use of its time with the other houseguests, fleshing them out just enough so that each has an individual personality that we care about and don't want to see harmed as they're forced to play into the depraved games of their tormentors. Of all the siblings, Flueger gives the best performance as his character is given more screen time and a variety situations that allow him to expand his talent beyond just that of a vicious killer.

The violence comes with full force in Mother's Day like a vicious punch to the face, as every scene involving torture or death is filled with an underlying sense of realism that's hard to shake. Be it boiling water, a gunshot to the cheek, or even a simple stabbing, the crudeness of it will get under your skin and remain until the last frame. One scene that comes to mind is when Ike drives Beth to an ATM so she can take out money from everyone's bank accounts to aid the family's escape across the border. Two impatient teenagers waiting in line irritate Ike to the point that he offers them a deal at gunpoint, throwing down a knife and revealing that whoever can stab the other first gets to live. This scene has nothing to do with the plot of the movie, but this small departure gives you a look into the psyche of this vicious family, as Mother offers a similar deal back at the house: two male houseguests are forced to fight each other, the loser's wife awarded the horrifying task of deflowering the wounded Johnny upstairs. Added to all of this is an uncomfortable ending that will have those invested in the story jaw-dropped in disbelief.

If you're going to remake a film, this is how to do it. While Mother's Day alludes to the original with a few inspired kills, quotes, and references to the infamous Queenie, it completely revamps the story to a point that it could almost become its own film. With remakes attempting to be shot-for-shot photocopies of the original, or worse, trying to provide backstory for its killers, Bousman has laid out an ingenious blue print that future writers and directors should take note of. While we can't get rid of remakes, it is possible to create one that die hard fans of the original will enjoy. You just don't need to have your source material winking at the screen every five minutes.

 4/5 Stars

I'm not sure which is the worse security guard here...


  1. I enjoyed this film as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was actually not much at all like the original. It plays out more like a Crime/Thriller than an actual Horror flick. As you stated, this is a great blueprint for future writers/directors of remakes. Though I will add that the Dawn of the Dead remake is my absolute favorite remake to date. I think The Hills Have Eyes would be a close second.

  2. I'm completely with you on both Dawn of the Dead and the Hills Have Eyes remakes. I have no idea why DotD gets such a bad rap by some. I think some people are just so overtly Romero-fanboys that they refuse to acknowledge someone else tackling his work. But to be honest, I LOVE Savini's Night of the Living Dead remake almost as much as the original.

    Plus, any time i watch Modern Family, i can't see Phil without seeing remembering how much of an asshole he was in Dawn of the Dead.

  3. I'm a big fan of Romero myself, but I also know a good film when I see one and even if it is a remake I'll give it it's proper dues. And Savini's remake of NOTLD was very good. I still prefer the original, but it was a very good remake.

    I am anxiously awaiting more news on Romero's/Savini's Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things remake. I totally have an anticipating boner for that one!