Steve, our PR guy – well, uh, at least that’s what I think he does – slapped me in the face with my latest assignment, last Monday.
“Review Mother’s Day, you freakin’ weirdo. If you don’t, it’ll be cube time.”
“A remake of a cult classic exploitation film about a half-crazed, doting mother whose children are a motley group of cut throat criminals? Haha this sounds like my cup of tea! “ I said.
Then, he started laughing. At first, he started hushed and low, but then grew in intensity and malevolence. He raised his hands, curled his fingers inward and threw his head back in maniacal satisfaction. His laugh echoed through the night as he recognized the cursed fate of this poor, underpaid, hired geek.
At least, that’s how I remember it in hindsight.
Mother’s Day (2010) Trailer
See, Mother’s Day is a tricky film to review – especially when working with horror fans. It definitely shows off the right moves, but something about it is just wrong, something just doesn’t work. It grinds by and grinds by and tries to give off the appearance of a movie that’s horrifying, but in the end, it just winds up horrible.
It is of no benefit to mankind. Allow me to explain why.
After a botched attempt at a bank robbery, three brothers (Patrick Flueger, Warren Kole, Matt O’Leary) try to take refuge at their Mother’s place, but quickly come to realize that the place they once called home is now occupied by a newly married couple, partying hard with a circle of their friends (Jaime King, Frank Grillo, Briana Evigan, Tony Nappo, Kandyse McClure, Lyriq Bent, Shawn Ashmore and Jessie Rusu). What was once a rowdy night in quickly becomes a pseudo hostage situation, as the brothers take over the house, and call in their mother for advice and emotional support. Once mommy (Rebecca De Mornay) arrives, with her daughter in tow (Deborah Ann Woll), she’s appalled at their former home, and – worse yet – knows that a series of cash-filled letters have been mailed to this address, which she’s determined to find, by whatever means necessary.
How’s she gonna do that, you ask? By a series of bits wherein she forces the patrons of the house against one another in a sort of “survival of the fittest,” “who-turns-on-who” sort of thing.
Initially, it looks good on paper. It’s easy to see why one would be delighted, perhaps even vaguely aroused, to come into contact with such a motion picture. It’s an intriguing premise, and you want to see what lengths these people will go to in order to secure their own safety. De Mornay sells the part with a controlled, chilling sense of courtesy that makes for a particularly engaging sort of first act.
“Dear, please don’t bleed so much. It’s bad for your complexion.”
You feel like you’re in for a treat – a forbidden fruit, if you will. You know you shouldn’t watch, because it’s going to be uncomfortable, but then again, you just can’t move your eyes.
But then somewhere, after a couple of unsettling scenes, something about the whole film turns sour. Something about it just doesn’t feel quite right. It’s wince-inducing, yes, but it all feels so empty, so shallow.
“The hell’s wrong with this movie?” You might think, “I liked it at first, but now I suddenly, I’ve come to wish I was dead.”
Yes, a perfectly normal response, I assure you. What you’ve just witnessed is a phenomena known as One-trick-pony syndrome. Something of a recent discovery in this age of torture porn, but fascinating, nonetheless.
In this case, it’s the repetition of the following scenario;
Someone does something at gunpoint.
A character point is revealed about them.
Mother tries to expound on themes about matriarchal control, bad parenting and chaos theory (or something).
Bad things happen.
Rinse and repeat.
“Happy Mother’s Day, lol”
There, I just saved you two long, frustrating hours that you could have spent bathing the homeless. Mother’s Day’s main problem is that it doesn’t exactly have a plot, nor does it have any likeable characters – the victims back stab each other, and the main villains condone rape, so in the end, you’re confused with as to why the hell anyone would want to watch something like this.
Sure, it tries to put on the guise of suspense (only works when viewers have someone to root for) and tries to play off the violence as a vehicle for its “thematic pillars,” but in the end, it just winds up looking confused and messy and outright stupid. Long story short, the themes aren’t conveyed through violence – they’re simply an excuse.
So you cross your arms, feeling betrayed and pray to Xenu (or your god of choice – me, I only give it up for Xenu) that in the end, there’s some type of resolution. Anything will suffice, really.
You’d be better off praying for them to bring back Ally McBeal because the sad truth is that it’s just not gonna happen. After 120 minutes of self-indulgent circle jerkin’, you’re left with a sorry excuse of an ending, and zero payoff (spoiler alert hur dur)
Mother’s Day presents itself as an exercise in testing your genre mettle. It’s assumed that you’d watch it to see just how much mindless mayhem you can stomach.
In the end, though, it just comes off as a test of patience. It’s the type of movie that suffers from a special kind of profound stupidity – a movie that doesn’t really know how off-beat its delivery really is.
BUT WHO WOULD DO SUCH A THING? What kind of depraved individual would bring about such ruin to the expectant souls of innocent horror fans?
The axles turn, and the gears creak. You mull over this question, and the answer is both enlightening and infuriating.
“Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman – director of Saw II through IV.”
-The torture for the sake of torture.
-The sloppy presentation and structure.
-The kindergarten philosophical treatise.
In a moment of absolute clarity, it all suddenly makes sense…
It all serves to underline the cancer that’s consumed plenty of horror outings for the last six years; Quality does not matter. If it makes a person uncomfortable, people will pay to see it.
Well, the hell with that – directors shouldn’t treat their fans like a bunch of dumbass kids. A scary movie isn’t supposed to be the cinematic equivalent of that one boy who’d eat worms at recess, just because it grossed so many people out. Don’t get me wrong, Saw (the first) was a good idea, and was executed very well. The problem is that it became a franchise that churned out hollow imitations of itself every single year. Hey, whatever works, man.
Though, I don’t believe it’s a critic’s job to decide what a movie should be, it’s worth warning people when a movie comes off as awful. Film is a vast medium, and truth be told, the more the limits are pushed, the better.
Thing is, pushing limits for the sake of pushing limits leaves your movie feeling transparent. After all, isn’t a party more fun when you have something to celebrate?
Unless you want to really see De Mornay’s affable performance, try to go out of your way to skip this one. Torture fetishists might get a kick out of it, but only insofar as sitting through this film pretty much amounts to self-torture.
While watching a film, an audience reacts best when they feel like they’re really being reached – not molested.