No, it’s not something you should consider giving to your own mum for Mother’s Day next year… but director Darren Lynn Bousman’s dark chiller certainly is for those who enjoy psychological torment. Released today on Blu-ray and DVD, our review follows…
Following a disastrous bank robbery attempt that leaves one of their number critically wounded, three brothers (Patrick John Flueger, Warren Kole and Matt O’Leary) head for their childhood home to take refuge until the dust settles. What they don’t know is their mother (Rebecca De Mornay) recently lost possession of the house in a foreclosure and no longer lives there. Instead, they stumble across the new owners, a young couple, and their guests who are in the middle of birthday celebration. Seeing no alternative, the brothers take the partygoers hostage before contacting their mother to explain their dilemma. Willing to do anything to protect her offspring, mother arrives at the scene, along with her only daughter (Deborah Ann Woll), and immediately takes control of the situation while masterminding a plan to help her family escape across the border from the US into Canada. Unfortunately for the hostages, mother’s plot requires some serious funding and she’s determined to get hold of it any way she can. So begins a long night of psychological terror in which loyalties are tested, secrets are revealed and sins are punished by a deeply disturbed woman with maternal instincts that can only be described as murderous…
From the very beginning, Mother’s Day screams of being a far tamer version of the Saw franchise with a similar vein of psychological terror for its characters and a certain amount of gore for audiences. Loosely based on the characters found in the classic 1980 Troma horror of the same name (directed by Charles Kaufmann), Mother’s Day actually develops its characters in a far more successful way than any of the Saw franchise or other torture porn films do. Whilst there may be a distinct lack of tension or suspense built in the majority of the narrative, the film is much more of a character driven horror that throws in some gore and disturbing sequences for good measure!
This is undoubtedly director Bousman’s best offering to date (he’s also been responsible for Saws II-IV), with an accomplished style that creates genuine shock for audiences at times. The only gripe that becomes glaringly obvious is just why do the characters do what they do? It’s made very clear from the outset that the hostages won’t be hurt if they comply with mother’s wishes, but they cannot resist doing everything in their power to disobey the rules and get themselves injured or killed! Whilst the film would have certainly been far duller had the characters simply bided their time and waited for the family to leave (doing exactly as they were told along the way), it would probably have been a far more realistic and less flawed film…
The film is very much Rebecca De Mornay’s… perfecting her portrayal of a psychopath from her earlier role in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, De Mornay gives a tour de force performance that trounces any of the other stars. Adept at showing mother’s softer, more understanding side as she is the maniacal bitch elements of her persona, De Mornay seamlessly flits between these two sides of the character to give a truly unnerving performance. The interchanges between De Mornay and Jaime King (as Beth, one of the house’s new owners) sparkle with menace and make up some of the better sequences in the film.
The supporting cast are distinctly average, despite being made up from some solid talent. Shawn Ashmore (of X-Men fame) is proficient in his role as the doctor mother calls on to help save her injured son. Ashmore’s character is the most believable, doing as he’s told and trying his hardest to survive the situation. Briana Evigan (star of such gems as Step Up 2: The Streets and Sorority Row) proves that she’s merely wallpaper in films, with very limited talents. Her character is meant to be tough and virile, but she cracks under the extreme circumstances and ends up having far less spunk or gumption than audiences are originally lead to believe.
Patrick John Flueger and Warren Kole are both solid in their roles of mother’s psychopathic sons. Flueger moulds his character of Ike on De Mornay’s mother, giving a performance that slides between charm and rational thinking, and psychotic rampage. Kole portrays his character Addley with a sense of redneck psychosis, giving a grotesque and unsettling performance that highlights just how backwards and screwed up the character is. The remainder of the supporting cast – which includes True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll, Prison Break’s Frank Grillo, Battlestar Galactica’s Kandyse McClure and the Saw franchise’s Lyriq Bent – have their moments, but rarely emerge as more than mediocre in their performances.
For the most part, Mother’s Day is an average release both on a visual and audio level. The images are afflicted with a persistent grain and other minor distortion or blemishing appearing occasionally. The grainy, unclean imagery is particularly noticeable and starts becoming distracting at points. The colour scheme is not particularly expressive, with lots of dark autumnal shades predominantly making up the palette, but these are generally sharp and clear. Odd colours shine through the dull tones, but these are the exception and not the norm. The rich, deep red tones of the blood that splatters and oozes from characters at various points is about as bright as the images get. Definition is solid – despite the less than flawless images – with finer details well visible for the most part. Wounds and injuries are very realistic; with special effects make up not being betrayed by the HD print.
The audio is far sounder than the visuals, with clear and clean dialogue throughout the film. Special effects sounds are strong and often take over the audio channels: gunshots are particularly loud and will likely make viewers jump! The rest of the ambient background sound is average, with good distinction between sound fields that helps to create a realistic setting for viewers. The musical soundtrack attempts to generate suspense and the typically rich horror styling will be familiar to fans of the genre. Unfortunately, the soundtrack can’t help create tension alone when the narrative sorely lacks it… Generally speaking however, the audio is deep and solid enough.
A few superficial supplementary features accompany the film, but a director’s commentary or behind the scenes documentary would have been welcome. Viewers will find the following bonus material housed on the disc:
• Interviews – Over an hour of interview footage has been compiled with a range of cast and crew, but none of these go in depth far enough for most viewers who’ll bother checking out the extras. Cast members Rebecca De Mornay, Jaime King, Patrick Flueger, Warren Kole, Briana Evigan, Matt O’Leary, Shawn Ashmore, Lyriq Bent, Producer Richard Saperstein and stunt co-ordinator Bobby King all recount their experiences of the production. However, the most interesting of these interviews is with Lloyd and Charles Kaufman, the team behind the original 1980 Troma classic.
• B Roll – This collection of secondary footage is incredibly dull and would have benefitted from some commentary. Instead, it’s just a collection of random scenes shot from a different angle, but still the same as what is in the film.
• Trailer – The original trailer builds far more suspense than the actual film does!
Film: 3 out of 5
Providing a mediocre amount of suspense and tension, Mother’s Day is more about gore and shocks. Mildly effective on this level, the film is entertaining enough and will certainly have viewers grizzling in places! However, too many flaws in the action mean it’s never anything but a second-rate thriller…
Visuals: 3 out of 5
The transfer on this Blu-ray release is similarly mediocre, with a persistent grain throughout the film that becomes distracting in certain places. The visuals are rather flat and lack much depth or texture, but colours are sharp and well defined.
Audio: 4 out of 5
Dialogue is clean and clear throughout the narrative, remaining intelligible even in the more dramatic sequences. Sound effects and the musical soundtrack make full use of the range of speakers and the audio is generally rich and deep.
Extras: 2.5 out of 5
Brief but informative, the special features that accompany the film are interesting enough but lack any real in depth access to the production and will likely leave audiences wanting to seek more.
Presentation: 4 out of 5
The multi-image front cover effectively captures the chilling nature of the narrative, but the inclusion of an unnerving child’s doll – whilst effective – is disjointed from the film itself. The video menu is relatively simple, but is easy to navigate and does the job efficiently.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Studiocanal’s Blu-ray release is solid if not exceptional, housing an enjoyable enough chiller and an interesting although superficial collection of supplementary features. Mother’s Day is definitely worth a rent if psychological terror floats your boat, but it may only be worth devout fans of this type of thriller actually purchasing it.
Mother’s Day is released today on Blu-ray.