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Mother's Day

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Rebecca De Mornay, Patrick John Flueger, Jaime King

(US DVD: 8 May 2012)

Mother’s Day is advertised and promoted as a remake of the 1980 cult film of the same title. Thus, the first impression is that filmmakers appear to be running out of fresh ideas. After all, the original is a truly obscure film produced and distributed by the infamous Troma Entertainment. As horror movie connoisseurs know, Troma is identified for its outlandish, bizarre, facetious, gory, profane, subversive, unsophisticated, cheap, shoddy films.

That being said, it’s only fair to say upfront that other than sharing some of the same producers, the title is the only major element that connects the original film to its remake. Indeed, the cast, director, narrative construction, visual structure, production values, and ideological subtexts are completely different in both films. Furthermore, the new Mother’s Day is actually a decent post-millennial horror film that aptly exploits our new fears and anxieties spawned and shaped by the current economic crisis.

As Mother’s Day begins, we are introduced to Izaak Koffin (Patrick John Flueger) and his brothers Addley (Warren Kole) and Johnny (Matt O’Leary) as they are running away from a botched bank robbery. Johnny, in the back seat of their car, is bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound. Fearing the worse, the Koffin brothers decide to look for shelter at their mother’s place.

However, unknown to them, her mother was unable to make the mortgage payments and had to foreclose the property. Their family house is now property of Beth (Jaime King) and Daniel Sohapi (Frank Grillo), who believe they scored big time in the real estate business. As a sort of house warming celebration, they have invited seven of their closest friends for dinner.

In such a way Mother’s Day sets the pieces for the unpremeditated and powerful collision between symbolic primitivism embodied by the Koffin family, and our civilized world exemplified by the Sohapis. As the Koffin brothers break into the house and realize their quandary, they are as shocked, enraged, and confused as the Sohapis and their friends. However, by relying on ruthless violence and threatening assertiveness, the Koffin brothers quickly subdue the Sohapis and their guests.

Trapped in a situation well beyond their aptitudes, the Koffin brothers have no other option but to call their possessive and sociopathic mother, brilliantly played by Rebecca de Mornay. While at first Mother Koffin is deeply apologetic about her kids breaking and entering the Sohapi’s place, very soon it is revealed that she is the most dangerous and sadistic of the bunch.

On the surface, Mother’s Day doesn’t follow the formula that characterizes the backwoods slasher genre as represented by movies such as Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes, and Wrong Turn. After all, the film doesn’tt take place in the deep of the woods or in an inhospitable desert, but in the assumed safety of suburban America.

However, if you think about it, the subtextual ideology of Mother’s Day is exactly the same as the traditional backwoods slasher film. Indeed, it presents a chilling fable that narrates how a group of common citizens that embody the precious values of modern society are confronted by foes that represent savagery and primitivism. 

It’s also worth mentioning that at first glance it may appear that the primitive is invading the civilized world, while the contrary is the dogmatic formulation for the backwoods slasher flick. However, we have to remember that the Sohapi’s house used to belong to the Koffin family. As such, by all means and purposes, the Sohapis are occupying the Koffins territory.

In this manner, Mother’s Day explores social issues such as poverty and class segregation in modern America. Indeed, this film suggests how the economic crisis is responsible for the fierce clash between two distinct subcultures. And furthermore, the gory violence of such an encounter raises anxieties of cultural mixing. In a metaphorical manner, Mother’s Day suggests that the gap between “the haves and the have-nots” is insurmountable and should never be crossed.

Moreover, Mother’s Day presents the Koffin family as monsters that embody complex socio political anxieties. For instance, the violence they enact on the Sohapis can be interpreted as a scapegoating process. Indeed, the Sohapis cannot be blamed for taking over the Koffin residence. However, one could argue that the broken financial system is ultimately responsible for the creation of these monsters. In such a way, the Sohapis become the scapegoats that absorb the guilt for the failures of our modern economic order. Needless to say, as a consequence of this scapegoating process, political and ideological complexities are reduced to a simple moral opposition between “good” and “bad” people.

For those interested in such sociopolitical intricacies, Mother’s Day has been released in a nice looking Blu-ray courtesy of Anchor Bay. Unfortunately, there are no bonus features to be found in this presentation. In any event, because of its uncompromised gore and violence, the chilling performance of Rebecca De Mornay, as well as its complex ideological subtexts, Mother’s Day is likely to please most fans of the horror genre. All others will feel like a vegetarian at a barbeque.


Extras rating:

Marco Lanzagorta received a PhD in physics from Oxford University and has worked at prestigious research institutions in England, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico and the US. During the past 25 years, he has conducted research in physics, computer science, and neuroscience. Currently, Marco is a research physicist at a major defense research laboratory in Washington DC, and an affiliate associate professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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