Fantastic Fest 2010: MOTHER’S DAY Review

     September 30, 2010

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When the director of Saw 2, 3, and 4 decides to remake a B-movie horror, you expect some graphic and torturous kills and perhaps not much else. However, when you gather a talented group of actors and give him a good script, it appears you get a little bit more than what you pay for. That is exactly what Darren Lynn Bousman’s latest effort, Mother’s Day, proves, as he takes B-movie mechanics and surgically implants a backbone of drama that ends up being a surprisingly fun mixed bag. Join me after the jump for my full review.

We open on Addley, Johnny, and Ike Koffin as they flee from the law after a botched bank robbery has severely wounded Johnny and they are left with no other option but returning to their mother’s old home. However, they are surprised to find that the property is under new ownership after being foreclosed and bought months earlier, and they have guests; a lot of them. As they struggle to contain the situation, they resort to calling Mother (Rebecca De Mornay) to help them escape. No one is safe as lies and deadly secrets are revealed when the guests are exposed to Mother’s sadistic ways of getting exactly what she wants.

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While the film sets up the premise, things start to get a little wild as the guests are picked on by the quick-tempered Addley (Warren Kole). There is little backstory for the numerous characters, and we are dropped into the middle of the cheesily named Sohapi party, headed by Daniel (Frank Grillo) and Beth Sohapi (Jamie King). However, once Mother gets involved, the real fun begins as De Mornay shows no one plays twisted as well as she does. Unfortunately, the fun and logic seem to falter as they hit the home stretch, and we are left with a bumpy 90 minute ride that has a string of violent kills and viscous scenes of interrogation that shows nobody fucks with Mother’s family.

Bousman and crew intend to set this film up as a franchise, and Mother has enough intriguing rules and backstory to give it some legs. The other characters are a little lacking, though. In terms of action, most scenes are shot up close, creating a violent blur that had the audience cheering several times. There are several scenes of torture that are truly sadistic, but they never go overboard. We also have two great scenes where survival of the fittest comes into play, which are sure to be fan-favorite staples if this does become a full-fledged franchise.

The cast is where the film really gets things right. There is a healthy mixture of gender and race, and they frequently off people for the slightest mishaps. Ike (Patrick Flueger) is the calm and intelligent brother that keeps things from really getting squirrelly. This helps stabilize the film while the deceptively smart Beth proves to be a great equalizer as the two square off. Of course, De Mornay is the real prize, and she doesn’t disappoint; she even has some rough and tumble scenes to mix things up.

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For a freshman effort screenplay by Scott Milam, there is an uncharacteristic amount of depth to the underlying themes at play. The roles of women in society, especially how they are raised in a family, keep bubbling up to the surface between the transition of the second and third act, but it’s never fleshed out enough to really be explored. Perhaps a sequel will search out those themes and give them a front-and-center portion of the plot.

Ultimately, Mother’s Day is a fun ride that takes a little time to setup and peaks in the middle before finishing in a sloppy and clichéd manner. Over the 90 minute runtime, De Mornay flexes her acting muscles and shows she can be as delightfully devious as ever, while the rest of the cast do an admirable job of keying off of her and keeping pace. Violent, vicious, and a lot of fun for the most part, Mother’s Day is a better than expected home invasion thriller despite a number of flaws.

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