I have to admit, I've never finished the original Mother's Day, a 1980 cult film treasure - according to some - from the folks over at Troma. I remember trying to watch it a while back, but I was in the mood for something shiny and watching Instant Netflix is about my least favorite thing in the world, so I ended up moving on and saying I was gonna catch up with it later. And I never did. So, this review of Mother's Day - the recently released remake of said film - shall just focus on the newer, shinier Mother's Day.
Rebecca De Mornay - who I feel like we haven't heard from since like 1995 and something like Never Talk To Strangers - takes center stage in Darren Lynn Bousman's film, as the matriarch of a criminal family who take control of a private residence where a bunch of hip and trendy people are having some sort of celebration. It seems that Mother's three sons have just failed in crime, and need the safety of their old home - despite its new owners (a married couple with their own issues played by Jaime King and Frank Grillo) and their guests who appear to have just walked off the set of a Light Beer commercial.
What follows is a long and painful evening of torture, tears, and tribulations. With 5 criminals and about 10 hostages/victims, there's a lot of opportunity for varying kinds of madness and violence in the film, which runs for what feels like a terribly excessive 112 minutes. Most of that time is spent making sure each and every character is given some sort of unique torture while also being involved in one or more different attempts to escape or overthrow the family that is holding them hostage. Sometimes it feels like Bousman and writer Scott Milam wrote their script while playing Clue - Is it the husband in the upstairs with the clothes iron? Or is it the tattooed lady in the kitchen with the knife? - as they refuse to pass up any opportunity for a good bit of trauma. Surprisingly, there's evidence of more restraint when the film deals with gore - there's blood, but not on a Saw-esque level - than evidence of restraint in the editing room.
Despite its repetitive nature, the film doesn't wear out its welcome entirely. The cast is hit and miss, but the performers that shine - like King, Warren Kole as one of the brothers, and Deborah Ann Woll as the timid sister of the criminals - give very strong performances that hit all the right marks. Other cast members are less likeable - Patrick Fleuger has some bad moments as the alpha brother, while most of the folks who spend the movie whining in the basement grated me (except the always welcome Briana Evigan, who's...well...HOT) - but there's no one in the film who completely sucks life from the production.
But the film's really all about De Mornay and her wicked turn as Mother - which, thankfully, is the best thing about the movie. The character is one of the more interesting and disturbed that we've seen in horror for a while, and the actress plays off her past work - like her unhinged turn in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle - to balance between brutal and loving throughout the film. There's some fantastic dark comedy inside the motives of Mother, which also allows De Mornay's performance to offer a tiny reprieve from the other terrors on screen. To put it simply, she's the main reason I can even come close to recommending this film.
There are some good moments throughout the film - an interaction between one of the aggressors and two ill-fated women at an ATM was fantastic, and plenty of other brutal scenes are handled with surprising grace - but another edit and a little more grit would have gone a long way to making Mother's Day feel like something more than just another run-of-the-mill home invasion film. I wanted to like the film a lot - several moments and one fantastic lead performance gave me hope - but the full package fell a little short of being something I feel comfortable suggesting to others. I guess you could give it a rental if you're really interested, but don't get your hopes too high for this one.