Mother’s Day | Varied Celluloid

Mother’s Day

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 10 - 2010



The Plot: Abby, Jackie and Trina are three close friends from school who went by the nickname The Rat Pack. The three are looking to celebrate their ten year reunion since graduating from college, bored with their daily lives they look to head out into the woods and have a miniature camping adventure! Unknown to them however, these woods hold a dark secret. A family unlike most, who like to kidnap and then torture young girls! Lead by the psychotic Mother, her two sons Ike and Addley demonstrate their power on a regular basis by picking up girls in the woods and bringing them back to their home and forcing them to take part in strange bits of makeshift theater on their front lawn before raping and then murdering them. While camping out our girls are ambushed by Ike and Addley who bring them back to their home and tie them to pieces of exercise equipment. These girls will have to survive the night and then figure a way out of this horrifying situation, but will they be able to do it or will they simply turn into additional heads kept like trophies in this psychotic home?





The Review
Mother’s Day holds a very special place in the film pantheon reserved for b-horror pictures. It is one of the earliest and most popular Troma releases and it was directed by Lloyd Kaufman’s (quirky president of Troma) very own brother. You might watch this title however, when compared to something like The Toxic Avenger, and you might be left a little confused. Other than the first ten minutes or so, Mother’s Day doesn’t actually feel a lot like your average Troma title. Sure, there is some gore. There is nudity as well. Heck, there are even some very broad stereotypical performances! The difference here though is that one gets the feeling that Charles Kaufman actually TRIED to make a good movie. Whether or not you ultimately feel he was successful in doing so will be a subjective opinion, but it is nice to watch a Troma film that actually seems to stick its neck out there. Mother’s Day is a bizarre but interesting piece of slasher film nostalgia. When one pines for the old days of eighties horror, they are usually not clamoring for more movies like Mother’s Day but there are some really interesting elements that make this one somewhat memorable.

What I think I like most about Mother’s Day is how rooted it is in the time and era that it was made. That is a pretty generic statement, I realize. Almost any movie is going to be rooted in its time and era after all. For me though, there is something warm and welcoming about genre cinema from the 80’s, due mostly to how very conventional these films were. Horror films are no less conventional in this day and age, its just that the styles and moods have changed dramatically. In today’s modern horror, everything has become so youth focus and oriented that there is an initiative to make everything as glamorous as it could possibly me. Even though the leading actresses here are not middle age, their characters are celebrating ten years since graduating college. These women, probably in their early thirties, are actually… adults! I didn’t realize how much I missed that in horror films until I started watching this movie again. In today’s society, even the authority figures are often played by actors not long out of their teenage years. I enjoy that this movie didn’t run away from that and throw in a group of random teenagers to be slaughtered as has been customary for the longest time. That of course doesn’t actually speak on whether Mother’s Day is actually a legitimate piece of good cinema or not mind you. To answer that straight up, I will say that no, it is not a great piece of cinema. In fact, to go ahead and spoil my review right now I will go out on a limb and say that is a slightly above average slasher at best.

Being slightly above average however is still better than just being average! Especially in the world of slasher films, where the majority of films are infinitely sub-average. There are a few things here and there, sprinkled throughout with much love, and I think that separates this one from the flock. For one, it actually has a very decent soundtrack that was slightly ahead of its time. The music still sounds incredibly dated, but the soundtrack sounds like something I would expect from the early nineties and not something made on the tail end of the seventies. To go with that, the visual appearance of the movie has held up surprisingly well. This doesn’t actually LOOK like a movie made in 1980 and the preservation by Troma is pretty impressive. Mother’s Day actually has a better look than The Toxic Avenger, which was made five years after this movie. The performances range however and some are vintage Troma in their quality. I mentioned the first ten minutes up above, but these are indeed the worst bits of the movie in terms of acting. After you get past that small little hump, you start to realize that this isn’t going to be your run of the mill Troma picture. The two brothers and Mother are both excessively over the top, that is for sure, but somewhere around the middle of the movie things finally start to work together and the performances stop seeming funny and start seeming rather disturbed.

The violence absolutely deserves a mention, as it is usually a big part of the grading scale when it comes to slashers. Mother’s Day isn’t a “bodycount” movie by any means mind you, it instead takes the route of psychological torture, but there are a few select moments of gore. The threat and presentation of rape through the course of the movie can be very intimidating on the audience. In your average slasher these girls would have been picked off one by one, but instead they are held captive and forced to endure the humiliation of rape and the ogre-like brutality of these brothers. This immediately sets it apart from the ever flowing series of campy/corny Troma titles that would flow down the pipe in years to come. This sort of psychological horror obviously borrows heavily from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but implements the psychological sexual horrors of I Spit on Your Grave or Last House on the Left. The mix still works pretty well and Mother’s Day ends up as a fairly disturbed slice of early eighties American horror.
The Conclusion
The gore is there, in parts. The opening homicide/rape sequence is brutal and features a fairly well done decapitation. The head being chopped off obviously belongs to a dummy if you look close enough, but it works within the context of the movie. There are a few other pieces of gore along the way, especially when it comes time for the girls to do battle with the two brothers. For the most part though, what makes the movie relatively successful is the slow torture and games that are played. The movie gets a three out of five. I do recommend it, but it may not be the best piece of work you have ever seen.



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  • Oh, Mother’s Day. So much to say…

    1. For some reason, we owned this VHS when I was way too little. I forgot about all the rapiness until I brought the movie to a slumber party (around the 8th grade or so) and watched my friends’ horrified faces. oops.

    2. In college, Warren Leight came to speak to my playwriting class. He’s a Tony award winner for his play, Side Man, and the current (I think) showrunner for L& O: Criminal Intent. I’m listening to him talk about his life and writing when he mentions how he got his start writing a terrible horror movie. I’m tempted to raise my hand and ask which one, but the conversation has already moved to something snobby and theatery. I bite my tongue.

    later that night, I pull up the old IMDB and discover that holy shit, that “terrible little horror movie” was none other than Mother’s Day. Damnit, how I regret not raising my hand in that class to ask him whether all the television references were intentional.

    So that’s my story. I kind of love Mother’s Day for the same reasons you do. It’s sleazy and mean, but more interesting than so many similarly themed films. I’m surprisingly excited for the remake, which seems to be made with the same Troma spirit. We shall see.
  • Hah, those are two very amazing stories Emily! Mother’s Day is really interesting to me in how very un-Troma-like it is. I mean, sure there is some bad acting (those opening moments at the self-help seminar are brutally bad) but once it gets in full swing the performances really aren’t that cheesy. It’s a surprisingly strong female revenge story that some people might unfairly write-off. My rewatch was definitely a discovery of sorts. I won’t say it is a favorite of mine or topping any lists, but it was way better than I remembered it being.

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