THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Mother’s Day (1980)
Directed by Charles Kaufman
“It’s brutal but bizarrely creative.”
Roger Ebert famously hated Mother’s Day. In 1980, he wrote (for the Chicago Sun-Times), “So far there seems to be no end to the vogue for geek films. And there seems to be no limit to the inhuman imagery their makers are prepared to portray in them.” He then concluded with the death nail, “The question, of course, of why anybody of any age would possibly want to see this film remains without an answer.” Well, as much as Ebert knew films, his reviews were for the masses, recommending films to anyone and everyone. Thankfully, with bloody fantastic sites like this one, fans know where to go to enjoy the movies they love without shame. Agree or disagree, at least we’re all in one big ass king sized bed together (though I get my own pillow).
With that said, I've never been a big fan of Troma movies. There's good stuff I'm sure but it usually doesn’t work for me. The comedy and the gore always seem too over the top, too stupid. I realize their productions are done on the cheap, but the end production always looked flea market cheap, and to me that always hurts the final product. Yeah, I know that’s their charm, and I’m sure some folks thought the dumb mute Michael Myers has charm too. If anything, Troma pushed the envelope of good taste, which I'm all for even if I don’t always dig the final product.
Anyway, like I said there's some good stuff too like Class of Nuke ‘Em High or The Toxic Avenger or Tromeo and Juliet. Head Troma man Lloyd Kaufman has always been the face of the company, but his brother Charles directed one of the company’s early notable and perhaps best flicks: Mother’s Day (probably known today because of the 2010 remake with Rebecca De Mornay)
Mother’s Day is one mean movie...particularly against women, which of course plays with the title. It all begins when three old college gals decide to reconcile for their ten year reunion with a camping trip. Well, that sounds like a good idea until they camp in place where Mother (50’s TV star Beatrice Pons) and her two strapping boys live to torture and kill unsuspecting people. Pons is the star here, and she’s great in the role, entertainingly sadistic. I’m surprised it didn’t give her a second career as an old, witty killer as she trains her two boys to be the best at raping and beating women.
Parts of it remind me of a couple films...old and new. The modern reminder comes from The Devil’s Rejects in terms of its brutality. If anything, while I have never been a fan of Devil’s Rejects, but I dig this one because despite the unrelenting violence here, it's still entertaining. Then it reminds of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not so much the whole chainsaw thing, but the backwoods family with major, major issues. For example, in one scene the boys bring out one of their kidnapped victims, make her “play” for them with different scenerios before being beaten senseless, raped, and murdered all while Mother watches with approval from a chair. It’s brutal but bizarrely creative.
If anything Mother’s Day is a creative flick with some memorable scenes. For example, one morning after a good ol' fashion murder, the brothers are awakened by their Big Bird alarm clock and then proceed to brush their teeth with beer and apply Lysol first to maintain the hiar style and then use it as deodorant. Then there’s the prank in the ballpark where a nude dude runs away naked to “I Think We're Alone Now.” Or when the boys come home and Mother pushes them back out until they wipe their feet in shit before coming into the house. Or the beginning scene where Mother picks up two killer hippies at a self-help group and then lets her boys chop off one of their heads. Like I said, brutal but bizarrely creative.
What makes Mother’s Day work is that unlike most Troma films, this one found that weird balance between cheese and humor and violence and torture. That’s something that few films in the B world ever find, and the one’s that do usually become the cult classics. Mother’s Day isn't for everyone as Ebert once said not as nicely. But if you dig old school 80s horror films, you'll dig this one.