Synopsis: The sadistic members of a villainous family return to their childhood home to terrorize the new home owners and their guests.
Stars: Rebecca De Mornay, Jaime King, Shawn Ashmore, Patrick John Flueger, Frank Grillo
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Running Length: 112 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Though it shares its name with a horror film from 1980, Mother’s Day is not a product of the remake machine operating within Hollywood right now. I’d say that the 1980 film serves more as an inspirational jumping off point for this twisted tale from the creators of the Saw franchise…and like the Saw films it comes with hefty portions of gruesome sequences that will test the audience for its resolve.
Three convicts on the lam from a robbery wind up at their old house that, unbeknownst to them, has been seized by the bank and sold to an unsuspecting couple hosting a dinner party. It’s a bit far-fetched that the three men wouldn’t have had any contact with their family to indicate that their house was gone but that’s something you’ll have to get used to if you are to get anything out of the film. In short order, the men hold the new owners and their guests hostage while they call their mama to come and help sort things out.
There’s a lot going on in the film at all times which contributes to its much too long running time. No film in this torture-horror genre should run past the ninety minute mark unless it can justify more time to the audience and Mother’s Day can’t make that claim. There’s way too much talking and exposition (which, I grant you is rare in horror films in general) before the movie really takes off upon the arrival of the mother of this band of criminals.
Even with its desire to turn our stomachs, what the film has going for it is a wonderful performance from De Mornay as a nicely evil matriarch…sort of a Ma Barker meets Lady Macbeth juxtaposition of a character. De Mornay rode these same slow-burn rails in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle to great success and she’s largely a winner here as well. Possessing a restraint that we can tell is keeping at bay something wicked, she enters the film right at the time it needs her most.
Thankfully, director Bousman knows exactly how to use the actress for maximum effect and lets the film be taken over by her from then on. Though it has about 90 minutes left, the movie is instantly more enjoyable because we never knew when Mother Koffin (great last name) will crack…we know it’s coming but we don’t know what will happen when she does. As this is a grisly horror film, it’s pretty nasty stuff so consider yourself warned.
If only the rest of the movie and performances lived up to De Mornay. Grillo (The Grey) and King are an interesting mix as the young couple fighting for their lives at the hands of the Koffin family. King struggles with the damsel in distress role while Grillo holds down the fort nicely as he plays against his normal bad-boy type. The movie would have been much more interesting with a smaller cast…it’s the guests of Grillo and King that seem merely to exist to be dispatched in a few fairly gruesome methods. I understand that the movie had to have a certain amount of gore to it so since they couldn’t knock off the couple in the first reel some of their friends have to be sacrificed.
That’s all well and good and fits in with the horror genre formula. Screenwriter Scott Milam, however, gives these guests problems of their own (shudder) so instead of being sympathetic to their plight we aren’t too unhappy when a few of the more unlikable guests meet their maker. Add another yucky subplot of Mother Koffin taking a vested interest in one of her boys losing his virginity to a terrified female guest and you have more than your share of moments that may have you lurching for the remote.
Still, one has to applaud the audacity all involved have to really go for the brass ring. It’s a ferocious kind of movie that’s not very pleasant to watch, yes, but I did find myself giving credit to Bousman and especially De Mornay for their bloodlust. De Mornay is still one of the more underrated actresses out there (when she popped up in the final moments of the dreadful American Reunion I almost shed a tear) so it was nice to see her perform with a sincerity most actresses of her generation wouldn’t have given to this second-tier work.
Mother’s Day is one of those films that you just need to be in the mood to watch. It’s an above average B-movie that delivers on the gore front but falls flat because of too much character development and a bloated running length. Genre fans especially will heartily enjoy this slick little horror film.