Fantastic Fest 2010: Mother's Day review
Director Darren Bousman clearly has trust issues. Almost without exception, every character in his latest film - a remake of Troma's Mother's Day - is happy to screw over their fellow man in order to save themselves. In fact, Bousman's lack of faith in humanity is so prominent that only his villain, Rebecca DeMornay's titular matriarch, has any sense of morality, albeit one that is dangerously skewed. In that respect, Mother's Day is a step back for the director after his daring failure Repo: A Genetic Opera, returning to the themes prevalent throughout the Saw franchise, in which he was so heavily involved. Bousman also confessed during the Q&A session after this morning's Fantastic Fest screening that a primary factor that drew him to the material was that remakes "are in" and he needed a hit. Whether or not his plan succeeded is dubious, although it does include some decent performances, most notably DeMornay, Jaimie King and Patrick John Fleuger and Warren Kole as the sadistic, gun toting brothers who mistakenly gatecrash King's dinner party of "normal" suburbanites.
Fleeing the scene of a bank robbery gone awry, brothers Ike, Addley and a seriously wounded Johnny break down the door of what they thought to be their mother's house, only to find a yuppy young couple, Beth and Daniel, have snapped up the property in a recent foreclosure. They are taken hostage along with half a dozen other assorted guests, and made to sweat it out in the basement until mummy comes home. On arrival, she is quick to rein in her boys and restore order to the escalating melée but it soon becomes apparent she may be the family's most dangerous member.
To write off MOTHER'S DAY as an overlong, needlessly sadistic procession of betrayals, back stabbings and otherwise disheartening behavior is to short sell a film that is also slickly shot, well acted and features plenty of grisly moments to quench the bloodlust. But only slightly. For a film largely set within the confines of a single family residence, MOTHER'S DAY is vastly overpopulated, and by almost uniformly unpleasant characters who do numerous unpleasant things to each other. Even Beth, who is pushed to the forefront as our heroine and point of compassionate reference, proves fallible and we only fear for her safety in the most fleetingly perfunctory manner.
DeMornay does deserve praise for her commanding central performance that proves deeply threatening without ever resorting to villainous grandstanding. As she schools one of her sons in effective intimidation methods, "Don't bark, stay silent and then bite hard." She is the only character who seems to understand or value the family unit, the only person to live by any kind of rules or show any degree of restraint, even though she's also an unsalvageable psychopath who raises her kids to be menaces to society. Everyone else is a selfish, narcissistic arsehole, which frankly makes them difficult to worry about.
MOTHER'S DAY is a worrying film, rather than an entertaining one, because it seems to take it as read that everyone has the capacity to commit violent atrocities against their friends and neighbours, and will do so provided they have a half decent excuse to blame it on somebody else. We understand Bousman's message, but he's been banging this same drum for years now and has long since lost it's impact. Repo may not have raked it the big bucks but it was wild, daring and maintains a steadily growing army of fans. His latest offering is one only a mother could love.