The concept of a horrific mother figure who simultaneously commands love and fierce loyalty from her children while demanding they commit the cruel acts of her will has deep roots in both psychology and the grand horror tradition. Twisted maternity propelled Jason Voorhees to his killing spree, Carrie’s mother locked her in a room beneath the stairs, Joan Crawford abused her daughter physically and emotionally (wait, that last one actually happened), and even Disney agrees that step-moms are downright evil. In Mother’s Day, a remake of 1980 Troma film of the same name, Darren Lynn Bousman revives that notion but muddies it with lots of sophomoric philosophizing and repeated twists in a film which, like the titular mother, overstays its welcome by about 30 minutes.
A photogenic couple (Jaime King, Frank Grillo) gather a bunch of their friends in the basement of their newly purchased home for a party to wait out the tornado supposedly touching down sometime that night. Before the party can really take off, three brothers on the run after a bank robbery gone wrong take shelter in the house believing it to still be owned by their mother. The boys quickly round up the partyers and have the doctor (Shawn Ashmore) in the bunch tend to the brother badly wounded in their escape. Soon enough their mother (Rebecca De Mornay) arrives with their sister (True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll), and they begin interrogating their prisoners about a series of packages supposedly sent to the house which remain unaccounted for.
Bousman clearly plays to his strengths in Mother’s Day as its particular brand of horror is based on torture and mutilation, something he had lots of practice with the Saw franchise. However, where Saw had Tobin Bell spewing shallow moralizing to justify his cruelty, the approach in Mother’s Day is even weaker. Worse still is the way De Mornay’s character will somehow extract truths from characters from supposedly subtle cues and then justify it with a glib “Mother always knows”, nevermind how she knows, because then the story wouldn’t be able to progress.
It’s a cheap out for actually cooking up something plausible, but then again the characters make stupid choices over and over that only make sense in the writer’s efforts to disguise which of the partyers has any idea why this is happening to them. De Mornay gives a great performance in Mother’s Day; it’s unfortunate though that it had to be in a poorly written film that drags on through the overly repeated device of the oppressors giving their prey a “choice” as to what happens next, even as the audience sees the futility of it all plain as day. All of this becomes even more pointless as the story that unfolds outside the house reaches increasingly high levels of silliness, with a captive having numerous chances to escape but making utterly stupid choices so that it never really matters.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
An audio commentary with Bousman and Ashmore is the only extra.
"Mother's Day" is on sale May 8, 2012 and is rated R. Crime, Horror. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. Written by Scott Milam. Starring Jaime King, Rebecca De Mornay, Shawn Ashmore.