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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Your Mommy Kills Animals
Your Mommy Kills Animals
Halo Eight // Unrated // November 13, 2007
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Dvdempire]
Review by David Cornelius | posted November 17, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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It's a hell of a tightrope filmmaker Curt Johnson walks in his scathing documentary "Your Mommy Kills Animals!" The subject is animal rights activism, and Johnson is so dedicated to showcasing the best and worst of both sides of the issue that the only people who walk away clean are the clear-headed moderates who pop up to provide a healthy dose of perspective.

Moderates, however, are in short supply in today's world. The mellowed activists of yesterday have been shoved aside for the radical terrorists of today. Of course, the term "terrorist" is certainly in question; the U.S. government lists animal rights groups as among the biggest domestic terrorist threats currently facing the nation, which seems like a stretch considering others who'd surely be more deserving of such a credit, until you take into account the activists' increasingly violent actions.

Consider: One activist group listed on their website the names, addresses, and phone numbers of employees of a research firm, an act which lead to some nutcase threatening to behead the seven-year-old child of one employee. Debate semantics all you want, but that's terrorism right there.

The website belonged to Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a group devoted to taking on Huntingdon Life Sciences, a wide-reaching company that uses animal testing in their medical research. The SHAC website is used to post news of worldwide actions, mostly involving protests and vandalism; the site is also a key online spot for "cheerleading" the cause. More problematic for law enforcement was the clever legal finagling that assuredly left the website operators in the clear - they weren't doing the illegal deeds themselves, they could claim, and so they're no more legally responsible for these actions than a newspaper reporter would be for covering the same event.

The Department of Justice didn't agree, and took seven of SHAC's top leaders to court on various conspiracy charges. Johnson's film uses this court case as its story core, partly as a way of showing us just where the animal activism community stands today, partly as a way of debating the curious nature of such a case. Johnson offers no answers, allowing the viewer to debate afterward. Should "The SHAC 7" be found guilty? Did they find enough legal loopholes to stay in the clear? Should they be punished for their association? And, most of all, does the end justify the means?

That's a stickler. Many activists interviewed would think so (indeed, one insists animal rights is an issue on par with slavery, and another compares the legal action against activists with McCarthyism), while a knee-jerk counter-response is that these people are so cluelessly brazen in their assaults that perhaps some jail time would help remind them that the law is the law.

A solid middle ground is offered by a handful of former hippies and lifelong animal lovers who explain how animal activism has grown out of control (the original intent was to reveal testing practices to the public; that grew to vandalism; that grew to all-out violence) and what the difference is between humane treatment and rights.

But don't get too comfortable in that middle ground. Johnson is eager to show just how thorny this issue can get, and he's not afraid to provoke. Lest you think animal rights activists are making too much noise over a non-issue, Johnson unleashes a steady supply of video footage detailing the very worst that's done to these poor creatures. Sometimes it is easy to hate such footage - all that blood and torture so some rich lady can wear a warm coat? - while other times Johnson leaves the footage curiously unexplained. (The sight of medical testing is heartbreaking, to be sure, but it's never made clear if this is vital or unnecessary research. Which may be Johnson's point, to be sure, but it's a risky move, as he comes awfully close to being overly manipulative.)

And lest you think such footage gives protestors a moral advantage, consider video of activists in action, assaulting strangers in the subway, burning labs to the ground. Or the aforementioned death threats, which pile in not only to lab employees, but also get spat at passersby on the city streets. They may think the term is an overreaction, but it still fits: they engage in terrorism.

With morality so hazy and the arguments against both sides so damning, why stop there? Johnson plows forward, managing to expose hypocrisy in such pro-animal organizations as PETA (which, despite the "ethical treatment" portion of their name, was busted for cruelly disposing of thousands of euthanized pets) and the Humane Society (who is presented as a lifeless machine effective only in collecting donations). Both groups withdrew their original agreement to appear in the film, which makes some of the arguments too lopsided. Johnson is then stuck overusing Shane and Sia Barbi, aka "The Barbi Twins," for expert commentary, although the only qualifications one can deduce from them is that they are listed as producers of the film. (In one fun moment, an interviewee chuckles about PETA spokesperson Pamela Anderson's hypocrisy, stating all those chemicals used in her plastic surgery were tested on animals. While the movie never pipes up to say it, the same must be true of the monstrously-stretched-and-injected Barbis.)

"Your Mommy Kills Animals!" (the title, exclamation point and all, comes from a disturbingly tasteless comic book printed by PETA) is a brutal experience, really, because it never lets you get comfortable with any one position. Your outrage over animal testing will be matched by your outrage against the protestors' violent response. Johnson manages to be provocative in a way that removes any negative connotations with that term - he's not pushing buttons just for the sake of attention-getting, he's revealing just how hopelessly complicated the issue has grown.


Video & Audio

Considering the wide variety of source material being used, it's no surprise that the video quality varies throughout. New interview footage is crisp and solid, and that's the best bet in indicating a good transfer. Presented in the film's original 1.78:1 widescreen format, with anamorphic enhancement.

The stereo soundtrack is equally variable, although again, the new interviews are clean and clear, while the oft-present musical background shines through without ever overtaking the dialogue. No subtitles are offered.


Just a set of previews for other Halo Eight releases. Perhaps to market these titles under a single brand, the previews play as one continuous presentation (with chapter stops for each trailer).

Final Thoughts

"Your Mommy Kills Animals!" makes for a rough evening's viewing, but it also kick-starts a whole night's worth of debate and discussion. Recommended to those who wish to delve deep into the animal rights activism issue without having any clear answers handed to them.
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