Fantastic Fest 2010 Review: MOTHER’S DAY

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
September 24th, 2010

Rating: 2/5

Writers: Scott Milam (screenplay and story), Charles Kaufman and Warren Leight (1980 screenplay)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Rebecca De Mornay, Jaime King, Shawn Ashmore, Briana Evigan, Frank Grillo

MOTHER'S DAY, the latest from SAW II-IV and REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA director Darren Lynn Bousman, is a remake of a 1980 minor genre classic that took elements from backwoods slashers and rape-revenge films to create a hokey yet fun 90 minute exploitation film. Bousman's film, on the other hand, takes elements from home invasion films and creates an, at first, hokey fun 45 minutes and then finishes with an exceedingly stupid and borderline tedious 45 minutes. It's a shame, too, as it features a standout performance by the lovely Rebecca De Mornay.

Beth (Jaime King) and Daniel Sohapi (Frank Grillo) have recently purchased a new home, they've reinforced their basement  for protection against Kansas tornadoes (yes, this is the kind of movie that has to explain that sort of plot point), and have decided to throw a party. Unfortunately, the previous tenant's sons have a problem (the youngest brother has been shot) and they don't realize the house is no longer theirs. When the Sohapis and the brothers Koffin clash, the result is anything but pretty and Mother (Rebecca De Mornay) must be called in to help pick up the pieces.

After a brief and effectively creepy intro set in a hospital, followed by a slightly clunky setup to the home invasion, MOTHER'S DAY settles into its best moments. The setup and buildup has a few moments of genuine suspense, though the first signs of the film's reliance on some of the most annoying cliches becomes apparent rather quickly. Where these are easily ignored at first as the audience enjoys the escalation points, once the film enters the third act they begin to destroy the grounding set by the beginning of the film. In fact, the logic begins to cause the film to cave in such a way that the few moments of admittedly intense and interesting violence become a few moments of refreshment instead of icing on the cake. Characters make too many poor choices and fail to take advantage of such obviously beneficial situations one begins to think these characters deserve to die. Then, almost out of nowhere, pieces of characters' pasts are brought up in strange ways, seemingly to add a new dimension to those characters, but really these revelations feel like made-for-TV level writing.

The main issue is that the original was a exploitation film and Bousman and writer Scott Milam fails to deliver on a pure exploitation level. The premise is there, but at the point where the movie begins to drown in melodrama and becomes a meditation on the nature of motherhood, the film ceases to be fun and works hard to undo everything that came in the first part of the movie. Which is a shame, because the talent is here to make the film work. De Mornay puts in the best performance as the demented Koffin matriarch. Bobby Johnston's score is the element that most "gets" the exploitation roots and frequently uses techniques to invoke the feeling of hearing a classic Italian or '70s horror score.

It's hard to call MOTHER'S DAY a straight-up remake when it simply borrows an element (a mother's crazy love for her crazy sons) from a little known film and fails to capitalize on it in any way. In other hands, the film's elements (especially De Mornay herself) could be utilized to create something truly intense and worthy of the original's name (much like the recent LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake). It is hard to recommend MOTHER'S DAY, though, knowing the annoying bait-and-switch quality of the film, it starts off too strong and ends so poorly.

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