Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rebecca De Mornay, Jaime King, Patrick John Flueger, Warren Kole, Deborah Ann Woll, Briana Evigan, Shawn Ashmore, Frank Grillo, Lisa Marcos, Matt O'Leary, Lyriq Bent, Tony Nappo, Kandyse McClure, Jessie Rusu, Jason Wishnowski
Written by: Scott Milam, based on a screenplay by Charles Kaufman, Warren Leight
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence and torture, pervasive language and some sexual content
Running Time: 112
Date: 09/23/2010

Mother's Day (2012)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Smart Mom

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Yet another horror remake, this one comes from an almost forgotten and not very well-liked Troma release from 1980, written and directed by Lloyd Kaufman's brother Charles. It was a rape thriller, which probably explains its reputation today. Fortunately, the remake chooses another path. Rather than three women going camping and running into a sadistic mother and her scumbag sons, the plot becomes slightly more complex.

Now a bunch of friends are having a party in their new house. Unfortunately, the house once belonged to a family of criminals, and after a robbery, the ignorant sons return there, shot, bleeding, empty handed, and desperate. Then, mother shows up. It turns out that the sons have been sending money to this address, and now the money is missing. Or is it?

Now, usually they say that a movie is only as good as its villain, and if that's the case then Mother's Day ought to have been a pretty good movie. Rebecca De Mornay plays Mother Koffin, and she's mesmerizing. At past fifty, De Mornay still has awesome sex appeal, so there's a sinister double edge to everything she does. She's authoritative and commanding, but behind everything there's a slight seductive quality, both with the newcomers and -- disturbingly -- with her sons (Patrick John Flueger, Warren Kole, and Matt O'Leary).

Then, she's also calm and well-spoken, like a female Hans Gruber. She has a purpose for everything she does, rather than most paper-thin villains, whose only purpose is to cackle and say "well, well, well." Aside from her we get Jaime King, who plays one of the new owners of the house. She is by far the most exciting and charismatic of the rest of the cast, which isn't saying much. Deborah Ann Woll ("True Blood") is an interesting wild card as the daughter of the evil mom, but she is not used for much, other than as another victim.

Not to mention that, as written by Scott Milam, the characters are a bunch of half-wits. If Scream re-established intelligent, savvy characters inside the horror genre, they have now gone back to what they were before, stupid plot mechanics, wandering whichever way the plot requires them and never taking any logical action. They fight amongst each other and make vague escape attempts, but they rarely make smart decisions or use their advantages.

The names of the characters are probably a sign of bad writing; if you think "Koffin" is a cheesy name for the bad guys, how about the good guys? Mr. and Mrs. "Sohapi." But director Darren Lynn Bousman is also responsible. Bousman is already a staple at horror conventions for directing Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV. However, his work outside that famous franchise, such as last year's abominable 11-11-11, suggests not much innate talent.

It's mystifying that so much effort could have been used up on one character and so little on the rest of the movie. It's likely that credit is due to Ms. De Mornay, who caused a stir two decades ago with her equally sinister performance in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. She could have enjoyed an entire career of characters like these and become a horror icon. Kudos to her, but there's nothing else remotely iconic about Mother's Day.

Anchor Bay released the DVD/Blu-Ray, with an audio commentary track by director Bousman and actor Shawn Ashmore.

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