That's kind of the thing, though: Mom don't live there no more. No, the old Koffin homestead has been gobbled up by a yuppie couple (Jaime King and Frank Grillo), and as the bankrobbers are laying their bleedin'-like-a-stuck-pig brother out on that ritzy leather couch, the Sohapis and a bunch of their pals are mindlessly partying down in the basement. While Addley (Warren Kole) and Ike (Patrick John Flueger) wait for their mom to roll in and save the day, they've got a houseful of hostages to play with. Mother (Rebecca De Mornay) puts a stop to that right quick, though. She's not a sadist, and she knows the clock is ticking anyway. She needs ten grand to shuttle her beloved children across the border and has just a few hours to rustle up that much cash. Where that money comes from isn't much of a concern as long as she has it before 8 o'clock, be it from her hostages' bank accounts, the safe in that one guy's drycleaning joint, or the couple months' worth of missing loot that her sons had been mailing to her old address. She is going to get the money she needs one way or another, though, and...yeah, this mama definitely believes in corporal punishment. Wait, did I really just write that? I'm sorry.
This remake-in-pretty-much-name-only of Mother's Day is the sort of flick where...if I weren't butting up against a deadline, I think I'd want to give it another spin before sitting down to write this review. I gravitate towards movies that -- love 'em or hate 'em -- get a really intense reaction out of me. I'm walking away from Mother's Day feeling almost completely indifferent towards it, and that really isn't any good for anyone. Don't get me wrong, though. I respect what director Darren Lynn Bousman has done here. At least it ought to silence critics who dismiss him as just another splatter slinger. Rather than trying to Saw it up, Bousman ensures that Mother's Day is brutal yet restrained. The horror is mostly in the mortified reactions of the other surviving victims rather than long, lingering looks at grisly makeup effects. That's a really difficult balancing act to pull off -- restraint versus pussing out -- and Bousman nails it. There's more of an emphasis on characters than you usually get in movies like this. That's not to say that you really get to know most of these people all that well or that they're lushly multidimensional or whatever, but at least they're not one-note cariactures. Mother's Day doesn't break it down into white hat heroes and black hat badniks. In one corner is a family of killers, and they all have their charismatic and/or sympathetic streaks. They adhere to something resembling a moral code. They're not needlessly cruel...or, at least, they're not supposed to be. Unlike most home invasion thrillers, you get the sense that they really would rather be out the door if that were an option. The gaggle of friends on the other end of the torment quickly turn on one another, backstabbing and betraying whoever they need to in order to save their own skins. Though Mother's Day does pit friend-against-friend in the name of survival a couple of times in ways that seem awfully Saw-esque, that's not really the driving force of the story. It also doesn't hurt to have someone with Darren Lynn Bousman's stylish visual eye on the other end of the camera, and Mother's Day benefits almost as much
The best and worst thing about Mother's Day is the show-stealing turn by Rebecca DeMornay. The film's first twenty minutes are flat and largely uninvolving, but all of that changes the instant DeMornay steps in front of the camera. Momma is charming yet chilling. DeMornay effortlessly sells lines like "every time I turn my back, you boys make a mess!" that would've devolved into campy schlock in just about any other hands. One of those bad guys you can't help but root for, her entrancing, powerful presence makes Mom the best thing about every single scene she's in. The only downside to that is...well, just about every scene she's not in starts to seem like dead air. As much as I like the rest of the cast, this really is DeMornay's movie, and no one else in Mother's Day is remotely as interesting or compelling as she is. The shades of grey that color Mother's Day's characters seem like they ought to be a nice touch, although that leaves the movie so low on truly likeable folks that I couldn't feel all that invested in what happens to 'em. I have mixed feelings about the runtime. Most of the home invasion thrillers I've come across are unrelentingly swift and brutal...often barely approaching feature-length. I get why Mother's Day is a two hour movie -- forty miles of bad road and all that -- but the pacing still seems too relaxed for my tastes, and the sheer volume of subplots and characters make it all feel kind of unfocused. I appreciate that this is a cruel, vicious movie without leaning on cartoonish geysers of blood, but still, it's nowhere near as unnerving, disturbing, or intense as I'd hoped it'd be either. The bleak tone Bousman strikes is where it ought to be, neither unflinchingly sadistic nor smirkingly post-modern, but I just didn't find myself getting sucked into this movie. Mother's Day makes for a surprisingly passive experience.
Darren Lynn Bousman mentions in his audio commentary that even though reviews of Mother's Day were decidedly mixed, at least they were polarizing. The people who dug the movie really liked it, and those who didn't...well, really didn't. Bousman notes that hardly anyone fell in the middle, and he's proud of that because every filmmaker wants to make a strong impression, even if it's not exactly the one they were hoping to get. Nothing's worse than an indifferent shrug, although...yeah, that's kind of where I fall with this whole thing. I respect what Bousman is aiming for here, but I don't think this Mother's Day warrants a card or flowers or even a cheery phone call. Rent It.
Ehhh, Mother's Day looks okay in high-def. The photography is definitely a notch or two softer than average, so even though you can tell with a glance that this is something more than DVD could
Technical stuff! AVC encode. Aspect ratio of 2.39:1 or thereabouts. Single-layer Blu-ray disc. The DVD in this combo pack, meanwhile, is presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Mother's Day is lugging around a 24-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. I'll admit that dialogue struck me as seeming kind of meek in the mix early on, but I warmed up to that quickly enough. Every last line is rendered cleanly and clearly, not marred by any hiss, background noise, unintentional dropouts, or distortion. The surrounds are subtly enveloping, establishing a tremendous sense of place. Home invasion thrillers are claustrophobic by nature, and the sound design here reinforces that remarkably well. I also love some of the clever sonic touches, obscuring or dropping the dialogue out entirely to ratchet up the tension. Mother's Day also benefits from an LFE channel that's often snarling with ferocity. A very solid effort.
No dubs or downmixes this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.
Oh, and Mother's Day is a combo pack that also serves up an an anamorphic widescreen DVD.
The Final Word
This kinda-sorta-remake of Mother's Day has finally escaped onto video store shelves after a couple years in distribution hell, but I can't really say it was worth the wait. Don't get me wrong, though; Darren Lynn Bousman gets a lot right, and easily topping that list is the brilliant casting of Rebecca DeMornay in the title role. The thing is that she's so phenomenal that everything else, as well done as it is, seems kinda flat by comparison. Mother's Day is a competent thriller whose dark, twisted heart is in the right place, but the movie as a whole just doesn't really work for me. Rent It.