Kathleen Turner is Beverly R. Sutphin, a sort of charming missionary killer (divulging said missions would spoil half the fun)—imagine Aileen Wuornos serving up Baltimore’s finest meatloaf for dinner. The mother of a twisted Cleaver-esque clan—dentist husband Eugene (Sam Waterston), promiscuous daughter Misty (Waters discovery Ricki Lake), and son Chip (Matthew Lillard), a nut of all things macabre (imagine Wally asking his father, “Have you ever seen Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer?”)—Beverly glides across her linoleum tiles as gracefully as she does when clobbering Mrs. Jenson to death with a lamb leg…and in a way, she’s almost cute when she does it.
Often hysterical, uncomfortable throughout, and top heavy with tasteless humor, 1994’s Serial Mom may have too many tongues in one cheek, what with cheesy takes on the queerness of PTA-attending suburbanites of the 1950s clashing with the clever parodies of the lust and celebrity of serial killers. Much of the picture will be offsetting to many, but how could you hold a grudge against a film that unites Traci Lords, Patricia Hearst, and a post-Nurse Nancy Pee-Wee Herman doll for the first time ever?
Serial Mom is Waters’ follow-up to a pair of family-friendly fare, 1988’s Hairspray and 1990’s Cry-Baby. And though the musicals boast their share of camp, this is the John Waters we hate to love, that grinning devil with that pencil-thin moustache and head full of vulgar, near-childish ideas that stoop so low sometimes that only the die-hard cult fanatics stick around for the ride…who else would stay in their seats for violent masturbation and sneezing on babies (thankfully never in the same scene)?
The Kings of Gore: Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman (11:26): John Waters and critic Dennis Dermody pay tribute to the legendary exploitation filmmakers, whose most celebrated collaboration, 1963’s Blood Feast, can be seen in Serial Mom. Director Lewis and producer Friedman, both in their 80s, turn up for comments.
The Making of Serial Mom (6:11) is a vintage featurette made sometime during the filming of the movie. A suiting inclusion, but not as worthwhile as the lengthier/more informative ‘Surreal Moments.’
Feature Commentary with Director John Waters and Star Kathleen Turner: This new commentary features the director and star chatting it up (Waters moreso than Turner) and sharing stories from the production days, including tidbits on Sandra Day O’Connor’s visit to the set, acquiring rights for songs/shows in the film, and all sorts of fun stuff.
Feature Commentary with Director John Waters: Originally recorded in 1999, this commentary features Waters in non-stop chatter, tossing up numerous stories, many of which are mentioned in other featurettes on the disc. Still, a fun listen.