« Bailout (2012) | Main | Dark Shadows (2012) »

Mother's Day (2012)

Saw is Family

I have no evidence to support this theory, but I suspect the reason the credits play at the end of Mother's Day, instead of at the beginning, is to keep the name "Darren Lynn Bousman" as far from audience members' consciousness as possible. If you know going in that Bousman made his name directing some of the Saw sequels, his new movie may seem like an odd mashup of that franchise, The Last House on the Left, and the original Friday the 13th.

I didn't know about the Bousman connection: in a rare move, I rented Mother's Day knowing only that it was a remake of an obscure 1980 horror film and that Rebecca De Mornay was the star. But within ten minutes, I got twinges of recognition that didn't quit until the big "ah-HA!" moment two hours later. First, J. LaRose shows up as a doomed hospital security guard. Soon, Lyriq Bent appears as a guest at a party. Both actors starred in Bousman's Saw III.

For now, let's assume you don't give a crap about any of this, and move right into the plot.

Beth and Daniel Sohapi (Jamie King and Frank Grillo) host a birthday/housewarming party for Daniel on the same night that a brutal tornado is set to hit their Kansas community. The couple snatched up the foreclosed home two months earlier, and spent a good deal of time and money Yuppifying it. Their friends are mostly attractive and well-to-do, and spend the evening drinking and flirting in the Sohapi's storm-proof basement. The house is so well-fortified that no one hears the trio of criminals busting in upstairs.

Following a botched bank robbery, The Koffin brothers, Ike (Patrick John Flueger), Addley (Warren Kole), and Johnny (Matt O'Leary), return to what used to be their family home (in true Reservoir Dogs fashion, Johnny has a nasty, hemorrhaging gut wound). When Beth comes upstairs, she discovers the men, turning the celebration into an instant hostage crisis. Panicked, and running out of good options, Ike calls his sister, Lydia (Deborah Ann Woll), and asks her to bring Mother (De Mornay) to the house.

Mother arrives with Lydia in tow, and addresses the freaked-out partiers with the bizarre, maternal assurances of a pre-revelation Mrs. Voorhees. She's convinced that the Sohapis have hidden several thousand dollars in cash somewhere in the house; she needs the money to pay off her connections, in exchange for getting the whole family out of the country before dawn. Her plan is for Ike to take Beth to an ATM and withdraw cash, using her guests' cards and PINs--while she and the other siblings tear apart the walls and interrogate the hostages.

Since this is a thriller, and a Bousman picture, nothing will go according to plan, and very few of the characters can be taken at face value. Believe it or not, Mother's Day is so heavy on plot that I felt like I'd been through a night of mind-bending horror by the end. This movie has everything: cars careening into ditches, a cat-and-mouse-chase through a dry cleaning shop, boiling water poured into a bound man's ears, and--deserving of my greatest possible paean to screenwriter Scott Milam's twisted imagination--a woman being set on fire using the burning photograph of the dead son of a man with whom she's having an affair. Step back for a moment. Take that in.

Had this been a typical dead-teenager movie, Mother's Day would have likely gotten stale pretty quickly. But the cast is great all around, and Milam's writing goes a long way in making us believe in these characters' relationships. Like many of the Saw films, this one pits people against each other in extreme situations--often at the behest of their torturers. But the key difference here is that the partygoers are mostly friends, not people the audience would expect to sell each other out on a moment's notice. Despite its sensational premise and occasionally bizarre developments, the story always feels like it's about real people;* some make noble decisions, others take the cowardly way out; a few do both, at different times.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why this movie wasn't released theatrically. It certainly doesn't look like it should have gone straight to Redbox, and there are some not-not-name actors in the cast. Perhaps whatever executive or committee who is in charge of such things actually stuck around for the ending--which is one of the greatest train-wreck finishes to an otherwise terrific genre film I can recall. Please, skip to the last paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers.

The movie opens with a woman sneaking into a hospital and stealing an infant from the neo-natal unit. We're meant to believe that this is the film's prologue--that Mother was taking one of the kids that would grow up to be part of her illegitimate brood/criminal gang. I think Bousman and company tried to pull a nutty twist by wrapping that scene around to the end. Beth, it turns out, was pregnant, and in an unforgivably sloppy, tacked-on montage, she and the other survivors of their night of terror rush her to the hospital--where she gives birth.

The film ends with Mother and the remains of her crew driving down the highway with Beth's newborn. But there's still the question of whether or not this is a continuation of the opening scene. Any editor worth his or her salt would never allow such convoluted vagaries into their film, unless directed to by someone higher up the chain. Whoever's to blame, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. What should have been the ultimate sting became an occasion for me to mumble "No, no, no, no, no" at my computer screen.

HORRIBLE ending aside (which isn't too surprising, given the WWE-style wrestling match that serves as the un-classy climax to an otherwise classy film), I highly recommend Mother's Day. It's a sick, soapy, sleazy good time, dolled up in Crate & Barrel packaging--and it's much cheaper than flowers.

*Okay, I guess real people don't keep enough plastic wrap lying around to perfectly bind five people in the event that home invaders might need it in a pinch. Geez, Bousman, would it have killed you to film Beth making a quick trip to Costco or something?

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>