Released by: 88 Films
Released on: February 23rd, 2015.
Director: Charles Kaufman
Cast: Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Nancy Hendrickson, Rose Ross
As far as "horror comedies" on the more brutal end of the scale go, 1980's MOTHER'S DAY is pretty much top of the heap for those of a certain sensibility. While neither as lovably silly as RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD or as witty and edgy as RE-ANIMATOR, it nevertheless manages to leave a lasting impression. Mixing straight up violence against women a la I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE with gross out humor and Herschell Gordon Lewis level gore (much more realistically done however) makes this film one not easily forgotten.
Three longtime friends dating from college days - Jackie (Deborah Luce), Trina (Tiana Pierce) and Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson) are on a yearly reunion camping trip together cross country when they run afoul of a psycho mama (Rose Ross) and her mentally handicapped and homicidal pair of sons. The men abduct the girls and torture them under the sick direction of "mama" at their deep-in-the-woods of New Jersey hotel hideaway. And that's really it as far as plot goes. The film is a series of humiliation and terror scenes salted with bizarre conversations about the then current pop culture of the day like disco from the deviants and the girls attempting to survive.
In spirit, MOTHER'S DAY is every inch the video nasty and comfortably fits in the period canon of films like Bill Lustig's MANIAC, but it isn't quite as graphic as that film. There's a commentary buried in here on consumerism but truthfully it is a bit too heavy handed to really work on an intellectual level. Where the film really works as an exploitation piece is on consistent tone. Everything on display is just sleazy with no apologies. It also avoids being stupidly wannabe offensive like BLOODSUCKING FREAKS by sticking to mostly plausible actions on the part of the victims and utilizing professional gore effects. There's something kind of ferocious about MOTHER'S DAY and that's a good thing in this kind of picture.
Ross is the standout performance but the acting in general is a cut above the usual one note FRIDAY THE 13TH level. The boys are broad as hell but avoid "full retard" and the girls have solid chemistry and work well together. Director Charles Kaufman does strong work technically on a minuscule budget and the cinematography is good. This is one of Troma's best productions on a purely professional level and devoid of the kind of obnoxious, knowing "kitsch" factor that makes so much of their output crap. There is some (albeit twisted) substance here. For pure greasy backwoods themed slime, MOTHER'S DAY delivers. It just takes a certain sensibility to enjoy it.
UK outfit 88 Films have brought the film to Blu in a very good transfer. The 1.85:1 1080p image has solid color, normal appearing film grain and no evidence of DNR tampering. While the film was shot cheap, it looks better than many other films from the same era. I didn't spot any notable print damage and black levels seemed appropriately deep in the darker scenes. I'm not sure if 88 have struck a new transfer from Troma's USA edition, but I can report that no one should have any complaints about the work here. Audio is a DTS-HD Master 2.0 track that lacks any punch but is clear enough. The only problem I noted is some minor issues with volume fluctuation but nothing too detrimental.
88 have packed out this edition with all of Troma's previous USA edition goodies as well as a few exclusive ones. The commentary track with director Kaufman and assistant art director Rex Piano is definitely worth a listen. These dudes are full of insider info and gossipy bits that make this tons of fun. It's also fascinating to hear about odd things like product placement in a horror film this nasty. You also get two short filmed intros with Piano and Kaufman for the film, as well as a 13 minute on camera dissertation from director Eli Roth on the film. Kaufman - who has left the film biz and now runs a bakery - is pretty amusing in his piece as is Piano. Roth makes a valiant attempt to present MOTHER'S DAY as some sort of subversive classic. Charles Kaufman and Darren Lynn Bousman (of SAW and the MOTHER'S DAY remake fame) have an 8 minute piece discussing their respective films and creative visions and there is also a reel of Super 8 footage focusing on gore effects that's quite interesting. The Super 8 stuff has a Kaufman audio commentary as well. Finally, 88 top it all off with a MOTHER'S DAY theatrical trailer and TV spot and a trailer reel for some of their other catalog titles.
The Parting Shot:
You get what you pay for in MOTHER'S DAY. This is pure exploitation slime with a micro budget but macro professionalism. While some may spot subversive gold in these hills, I prefer to regard the film as one that's pure in heart. This is balls-out crass exploitation with no apologies. The kind of people who dig this sort of thing should be highly pleased with 88's presentation. It trumps the USA version on extras and has a very nice transfer.
Recommended. Tell mama the news.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!