• Mother’s Day (1980, Blu-ray)

    Released by:
    Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Released on: September 4, 2012.

    Director: Charles Kaufman

    Cast: Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Frederick Coffin, Michael McCleery, Beatrice Pons

    Year: 1980

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    The Movie:

    Directed by Charles Kaufman in 1980 and co-written by Kaufman and Warren Leight, Mother’s Day, presented on Blu-ray in its uncut version from Anchor Bay Entertainment, begins when a seemingly meek old woman (Beatrice Pons) leaves a self improvement seminar and offers to drive home two of her fellow attendees. When the car sputters and stops, we figure the old lady is done for as one of the passengers reaches for a rope, but before they can make their move someone leaps out of the trees and decapitates the male passenger with a machete.

    From here we meet three college friends – Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson), Jackie (Deborah Luce) and Trina (Tiana Pierce) – who get together once a year for a trip ‘no matter what.’ This time around they head out to the ‘Deep Barons Wilderness Area’ in the rural part of New Jersey. After stopping for supplies, they head into the woods and set up camp. All is going well – they’re skinny dipping and reminiscing about old times… until two young men, Ike (Frederick Coffin) and Addley (Michael McCleery) wrap the girls up in their sleeping bags and abduct them. The girls awake prisoners at a filthy rundown farm house presided over by a familiar looking old woman who seems to be able to talk these two ‘boys’ into doing whatever she tells them to. Of course, our three heroines try to escape, but that’s not going to be easy…

    Likely influenced by films like Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Kaufman’s film injects a lot more black humor into the film and, as such, it has a lighter tone than those two aforementioned pictures. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t wind up in some very dark territory towards the end, however, as the comedy begins to subside and the film gets seriously grim. Early on, however, there are some amusing bits that’ll pay off for attentive viewers, be it the small town store clerk clipping his nails and cutting himself when the ‘lesbeans’ come in and knock over all of his produce, or the debates that continually rage between brothers Ike and Addley. There’s also some amusing dialogue throughout the film too, some of which actually occurs between captor and captive. Small details like the Big Bird alarm, clock, the Superman suspenders and the bodybuilding magazines spread around the house would seem to indicate that boys are a little on the slow side but then this contrasts with scenes in which ‘mother’ has them training by punching homemade punching bags and chopping up plastic dolls – it’s all very obviously a strange environment indeed and ‘mother’ seems to have no problem watching her kids rape and torture their new friends.

    Performances are pretty good here, for the most part. The three female leads start off as a little hokey but eventually some personality comes out and by the time it all hits the fan we definitely feel sorry for them enough to care about their outcome. The real stars are the ‘family’ members, however. Frederick Coffin, Michael McCleery and Beatrice Pons all go completely over the top here and the movie is all the better for it. This all adds up to an interesting conundrum in that we laugh at the movie but realize we shouldn’t be – once this starts to sink in, the ending is more powerful than it would be otherwise. Ultimately, yeah, this might be a trashy exploitation film but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s quite well made and wholly deserving of its reputation.


    Mother’s Day looks pretty good in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Yes, some print damage and small scratches are visible throughout the movie but never to the point where it takes away from the experience. Detail is generally pretty good for an older low budget production and the colors are frequently quite impressive. Grain structure looks good, skin appears realistic and not overly waxy even if it is just a little warm looking in some shots, and detail is texture is generally pretty strong as well. Shadow detail won’t floor you but black levels are pretty deep here and there aren’t any serious compression artifacts to note. All in all, the movie looks good.

    The only audio mix for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track (not a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix as advertised on the packaging) there are no alternate language options, closed captioning options or subtitles. This is an acceptable mix that happens without much separation and there are times where the dialogue is a little on the muffled side but overall it’s sufficient. There isn’t a whole lot of channel separation going on to discuss but dialogue is usually clear and the score sounds good as do the sound effects.

    Charles Kaufman provides a brief but amusing introduction to the movie in which he talks about how his life has changed since he made the picture and how he wouldn’t ever make a film like this now that his life has gone the way it has gone. Kaufman also provides an audio commentary that offers up some insight into what it was like working on this picture, who did what, locations, effects, cast and crew contributions and input and more. It’s a decent track that sometimes goes astray but which manages to offer some welcome back story for the film.

    Aside from the commentary, there is ten minutes worth of 8mm behind the scenes footage that amounts to some effects test shots and screen tests. These are worth checking out for curiosity’s sake and it’s nice to see them included here. We also get an eight minute long interview with Charles Kaufman conducted by Darren Lynn Bousman at the San Diego Comic Con from 2010. Bousman was the man behind the Mother’s Day remake and here he expresses his admiration for Kaufman’s original and picks the man’s brain about the film for a little while. We also get a thirteen minute long featurette in which Eli Roth talks about why Mother’s Day is one of his favorite films of all time and tries to put some social context into the discussion of the film. A theatrical trailer for the film is included and the TV spot for it plays before the main menu screen loads. Chapter selection is also included.

    The Final Word:

    Beautifully skuzzy and brazenly bizarre, Charles Kaufman’s original version of Mother’s Day is a deft mix of pitch black comedy and fairly effective and disturbing horror. The performances are wonderfully over the top and the locations amazingly filthy, giving this one a look and feel all its own. Anchor Bay’s long anticipated Blu-ray release looks good and sounds okay and includes a few extras as well – this is definitely one worth getting.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Roderick's Avatar
      Roderick -
      Disco sucks.
    1. Jimmy Simard's Avatar
      Jimmy Simard -
      Just got the DVD this morning and the Anchor Bay quality control depatement sure don't care... Wrong audio (like the Blu-Ray), no behind the scenes video, no trailer, no Eli Roth (not that I really cared about this one), no spanish subtitles and no close caption. Everything I've listed as not present is listed on the backcover... at least the commentary is there