Rosie Ross - Mother
Tiana Pierce - Trina Hart
Deborah Luce - Jackie
Nancy Hendrickson - Abbey
Holden McGuire - Ike
Billy Ray McQuade - Addley
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Comedy/Cult/Backwoods
Running Time - 91 Minutes
Mother's Day - a day where we celebrate our moms for being there for us through the good and bad, raising us to become the best people we could possibly be.
Mother's Day - a day where our wallets get a lot lighter because commercialism has decided to use this special day as a way to sell flowers, cards, and feminine products that will traumatize any young man's mind.
Mother's Day - a day where you murder, rape, and humiliate others just to entertain your sadistic mom, who just happens to be afraid by her deformed sister who lives nearby in the woods.
Try making appropriate cards for that, Hallmark!
Seriously 1980's MOTHER'S DAY, which has been recently remade by Darren Lynn Bousman [of SAW II, III, IV, and REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA fame], has nothing to do with the day itself. But it's silliness and attempts at bad taste create a film that shouldn't be entertaining, but somehow manages to be even with its limitations and flaws.
Ten years after graduating from Wolfbreath College, a trio of best friends decide to meet for their yearly surprise getaway vacation - Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson) who has to deal with her overbearing sick mother who sounds like a dude speaking like a lady [Steven Tyler, is that you?], Jackie (Deborah Luce) who keeps getting used by her lazy ass cokehead boyfriend, and Trina (Tiana Pierce) who is the rich and famous bitch of the group. It's Jackie's turn to pick the trip, which ends up being a camping trip in New Jersey's Deep Barons forest and lake. Unfortunately, the Deep Barons are the home of Mother (Rosie Ross) and her grown sons Ike (Holden McGuire) and Addley (Billy Ray McQuade), who decide to kidnap and attack the three friends during the middle of the night for some really silly torture, rape, and murder. Talk about a modern family!
MOTHER'S DAY is one of the earliest films done under the production of Troma films, a company known for its low-budget bad taste films such as THE TOXIC AVENGER, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH, and POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. You either love Troma or you hate Troma - there's really no middle ground with Lloyd Kaufman and company. Fortunately, I dig Troma's stuff although I wasn't always a fan of MOTHER'S DAY. I disliked this film when I first watched it years ago, mainly because I didn't really understand the satire of the film. Now that I'm older and could appreciate what the film is trying to do with its limitations, I think MOTHER'S DAY isn't a bad film at all. In fact, it's one of the better Troma films in my opinion, even if the film isn't perfect.
The narrative is a cross between Wes Craven's 1972 exploitation classic, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and Tobe Hooper's 1974 masterpiece, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. In other words, there's rape and attempted murder performed by a backwoods family of weirdos that no sane person would want to hang out with. Fortunately, it doesn't really exploit the rape like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, or especially I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, had done. Instead, it takes the serious issues of kidnapping, rape, and murder and presents them in almost a comical and silly way. In fact, compared to later Troma films, MOTHER'S DAY is very tame and played more for laughs than for shock value. In fact, I just laughed and rolled by eyes for much of the film, never really taking the story seriously for much of its running time. And that's not a bad thing because that's the point of the movie anyway.
The film is also loaded with themes that are done with a satiric wit. Consumerism is a big one, as the family's home is full of material things you wouldn't expect in a home like theirs. The televisions are on 24/7, there's a Big Bird clock next to a corpse, and name brand foods are consumed right in view like it was water. Also the walls are written with sexual references and common quotes. There's also satire about self-help groups, which Mother is a member of at her Ernie's Growth Opportunity, or E.G.O., group. This group has worked so well that Mother decided to take the "good" from the city for her daily life. And by "good", I mean rape, murder, torture, kidnapping, and whatever sinful act one could commit, spreading this "goodness" to her children. It's as if the idea of self-help groups are not being taken seriously by writer/director Charles Kaufman and co-writer Warren Leight.
MOTHER'S DAY also does something that most Troma films don't really showcase - decent character development. It's not great screenwriting when it comes to developing the protagonists, but it's more than you would expect out of a film like this. For the first half of the film, we get to see the three female leads travel together, camp together, and even reminisce about the good old days [like getting back on some naked pervert named The Dobber]. Then when we get to the last half, where the girls are kidnapped, humiliated, and attacked, we understand the reasoning for these girls to help each other out of this situation rather than being selfish and risking each others' lives in order to survive. The strong heroes are helped by interesting, if not cliche, villains. From the kooky and sinfully sweet Mother, to the dimwitted Ike and Addley who constantly bicker about whether disco or punk music is better, the antagonists are entertaining in an odd way. They are not the deepest characters in the history of film [as a matter of fact, they are all stereotypes], but they're some of the strongest in a Troma film for sure.
However, I did find the girls to be very annoying in the first half of the film. The slideshow montage with the girls talking all over each other about the photos shown grated me from start to end. And then there are scenes [which are mostly filler] where the girls are driving and playing pranks together that just made me want to stop the film and watch something else. I understand that real female friends may relate to each other in this fashion in real life, but it doesn't mean that people actually want to experience this on film. Luckily, I liked them more as the film continued. But their first impressions weren't welcoming for me.
I also didn't understand the mysterious sub-plot about Mother's sister, Queenie. Now supposedly, she was this deformed family member that was exiled to the woods and considered a threat to Mother to the point that she was afraid of this Queenie. The problem is, she doesn't matter much to the story at all. In fact, she could have been completely left out and the narrative would not have changed a bit except for the ending. And what a stupid ending it is! It's obvious they're going for a CARRIE or FRIDAY THE 13TH shock ending here, but it just comes off contrived and ridiculous. And speaking of Queenie, what the hell was she supposed to be? The She-Bitch from ARMY OF DARKNESS? Honestly, I have no idea who the hell this character was supposed to be or why she was so important to be added into the story. It just ruined the ending of the film for me because it definitely wasn't needed.
By the way, was that first female victim Lady Gaga? It sure looked like her, but I couldn't read her poker face. Ma ma ma ma...
The special effects by Josie Caruso and Rob E. Holland are very primitive, but that's due to the low budget. Even so, I still enjoy watching what was presented. The decapitation scene in the beginning is extremely fake looking [Duh! It's a mannequin and I don't mean Kim Catrall], but at least it made me laugh with its cheap-ass charm. We also have a hatchet to the nuts [which displayed the obvious padding in the crotch area in the next shot - oops], Drain-O down the throat [with pink mouth foam!], an antenna impaled through the neck, and a fake plastic breast suffocation that just makes me scratch my head. It's not the most violent or goriest film, but it's Troma and it's cheap looking. Anyone who would expect Troma to produce the highest quality of effects needs to do their research. So the SFX are what I would expect for a film like this.
The direction by Lloyd Kaufman's brother, Charlie, is okay. It's nothing more than a point-and-shoot affair really. It's pretty amateur stuff in terms of editing, composition, cinematography, and direction. There are good tense moments when it comes to the chase scenes where MOTHER'S DAY that raise the thriller/horror level of the film. But other than that, it's not a visually exciting film. But the pacing is good and the direction tells the story well enough to make a more than watchable film experience.
The acting in MOTHER'S DAY isn't that bad actually. Rosey Ross [real name: Beatrice Pons] is the highlight of the movie as the Mother. She's funny, crazy, loving, sadistic, and touching all in one. The character is a monster, enabling her children to entertain her by raping and torturing people, but Ross makes her charming at the same time - giving us the knowledge that this Mother really loves her children. Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, and Tiana Pierce are all good as the victims. Nancy Hendrickson is probably the strongest as the nerdy Abbey, who has her own mom issues which play out later on the film. They annoyed me at the beginning, but I liked them by the end of the film. So that's pretty good acting right there. I thought Holden McGuire was very good as the dimwitted Ike, who was vicious but at the same time sensitive to his mother's needs. And Billy Ray McQuade was the more perverted one of the group, which he played well. You don't normally equate Troma with quality acting, but MOTHER'S DAY seems to be the exception to that rule.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE DOING NAKED PUSH UPS ON A FOOTBALL FIELD
- A bunch of people were graduates of E.G.O. [which stands for Ernie's Growth Opportunity]. I'm sure Kanye West was a straight A student during his semester.
- Trina had a pool party with perverted old men and stupid middle-aged women. This boy ain't looking for no play at this mansion.
- Dobber enjoyed doing naked push-ups inside a football field. Even though he comes up a bit short, he's still the team's best wide receiver. He's also great a football too!
- Ike and Addley took photos of Jackie role playing before slapping her around and raping her in front of their mother. It was like watching that last season of Roseanne, just without the slapping part.
- Ike and Addley argued that either punk or disco sucked. Can we all just agree that we should have drowned "Disco Duck" at "Rockaway Beach"?
- The girls attacked Addley with a hatchet to the balls and an antenna through his throat. I know some people enjoy watching The Nutcracker on TV, but that's just ridiculous.
- Drain-O was poured down Ike's throat. If that doesn't smooth the frog caught in there, nothing will.
THE FINAL HOWL
MOTHER'S DAY is a quirky horror and comedy film that is one of Troma's better acted films. It's also made with a level of serious competence and has more suspense and tension that's unusual when it comes to Troma, making MOTHER'S DAY stand out from the rest of the pack. And to think, mothers want murder instead of flowers on their special day. I really need to step up my game...
3 Howls Outta 4