HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!!!!!!
MOTHER’S DAY (1981)
What’s It About: I’ll keep this synopsis brief since this film really doesn’t bring in anything new to the horror/slasher genre. This Troma classic was filmed at the same time as the original Friday the 13th (at the same New Jersey forest location too!) and is more akin to a terrorized-girls-seek-revenge flick like I Spit on Your Grave rather than a straight-up horror picture like the Friday the 13th series. Directed by Charlie Kaufman, brother to Troma founder Lloyd, this film tried to shock and disgust but mostly fails by today’s standards.
Three friends who were college roommates take a getaway each year and this year they decide to go camping. For the first half-hour they have a grand ‘ol time, hiking, fishing, embarrassing the locals and reminiscing about all the best times in college like that one time when they pulled a prank on one of their bad boyfriends named simply “The Dobber.” While The Dobber was thinking that he was going to get lucky on the dark college football field and getting buck-naked, the girl blasts over the PA what a jerk he is and puts on all the lights. The Dobber runs away naked even though no-one is in the stands to see him and he could’ve simply just put on his clothes and walked away. Anyway, the girls are being watched by Ike and Addley, two hillbilly degenerate,s who one night kidnap all three girls and bring them to their dilapidated house where they meet Mama. Ike is a tall hulking Bowzer (from Sha-Na-Na) look-alike doofus with the worst teeth I’ve ever seen in a motion picture. Addley is more the Squiggy brother.
Mama, is really off her rocker and basically trains the boys to rape, kill and terrorize. You read that right, she actually trains them. I would really like to know what makes her such an expert in raping and killing; how did she get so good at it? In one scene, she actually stops play and tells Ike that the girl’s hand wasn’t bound enough and that she can easily over-power him to escape during a faux-rape exercise (I can’t believe I just wrote “faux-rape exercise”). They then really rape her while her tied up friends watch from the second story window. If that wasn’t terrible enough a scene, there’s then a training montage of the boys. Complete with jumping-jacks, push-ups, crawling in the long grass with a dagger in your mouth, stabbing a punching bag made out of a burlap sack, breaking the windows of the house (why?), smashing melons with a mallet (again, why?) and in one quick shot one of the brothers throws a knife at a target with what looks like Anne Frank’s picture on it. All while Mama is taking notes on a clip board and coaching them on. I’m not sure if Charlie Kaufman was trying to be funny here but when they just raped a girl and the boys still have two other hapless victims tied up in the house, its hard to find humor in such a sick scene.
The other two girls break free from their bondage and the one girl attempts to lower the other in a sleeping bag from the second story window. Halfway down she struggles to hold the heavy sleeping bag while Addley is lurking around the house. She holds the sleeping bag so tight that the small rope badly cuts her hand. Its supposed to be a tense scene but in actuality Addley had to have been completely stupid not to hear or see the sleeping bag hanging on the side of the house in broad daylight. So the girls make it and find their raped and near-dead friend in a dresser drawer! They are discovered by the boys and when it seems like all hope is lost, Mama calls them in despair. Mama is ranting and raving about being attacked in the front lawn by someone named Queenie. Now I could be wrong, but I don’t recall a Queenie being referred to ever before this scene so I’m not sure what’s going on. Later on, Mama goes in better detail about Queenie being her mutant sister who lives in the woods and lives off the land. She also is responsible for breaking Mama’s neck (Mama wears a neck brace the whole time) and the grandmother told the family she killed Queenie but Mama doesn’t believe that.
The girls do escape after all with their injured friend and try to make it back to their car. As luck would have it the car has been sabotaged by the boys. When night falls the one girl tries to seek help from a police squad car but it happens to be Ike posing as a police officer. I’m assuming they successfully killed a police officer and got away with it, stealing his car without the cops finding out. These are great backwards forest hillbilly criminals let me tell you. Anyway, she gets the upper hand with a swift knee to the crotch and thus begins a 9-minute chase scene. I kid you not, I clocked it, approximately 9 minutes of the girl fleeing from Ike in the dark woods. Meanwhile the raped friend dies from her trauma and injuries from the boys.
The girls then make it back to their campsite, gather up what they can for weapons, like hatchets and get ready for revenge. The kill Addley with a needle to the throat and a hatchet to the crotch. While Ike is choking the one girl, the other pours Drano down his mouth. This just slows him down a bit. Then they slam a television set over his head, electrocuting him. Again just slows him down. But a few dozen stabs with an electric carving knife does the trick. They then suffocate Mama in the basement with what only could be described as inflatable breasts. No, seriously thats exactly what it looks like.
Is It Actually Scary: Scary, no. Shocking, somewhat. Depraved, absolutely. The best scare moment is when the boys attack the girls at the camp site. Usually a slasher flick would clue the audience in on when the attack will happen with maybe a P.O.V. shot of the killer spying on it’s prey or ominous music on the soundtrack. Here, one of the girls was in mid-sentence and BOOM the boys come out of nowhere and trap the girls in their sleeping bags and drag them back to their house. There was no hint that they were even there at the camp site.
How Much Gore: A good amount actually. The beginning features an OK decapitation and Addley’s throat puncture and crotch hack showed some good gore.
Dumb Moments: The movie’s not too bright and completely aims for shock value more than anything. The title is one dumb thing in which the holiday of Mother’s Day is never mentioned or implied. The simple fact that Mama is the leader of these criminal boys is the only indication for the title. As far as I can tell it was not set on or around Mother’s Day. I can only assume that the title was a light riff on other Holiday-themed horror films like Halloween and Black Christmas.
Any Nudity: Not including the rape scene there’s a light frolic of skinny dipping by the gals before the terror begins.
Overall: I keep reading about this film and how most horror aficionados like this film and consider it a must-see classic. Frankly, I was very bored by Mother’s Day. Granted, for its time it was probably a very disgusting and envelope-pushing hit and I can totally see why. But I’m seeing it for the first time 33 years later and it didn’t do much for me to entertain me. The acting wasn’t sub-par even though it starred no-body’s with most of the cast doing nothing since this film. The only actor worth noting is Ike who has had the most work since. But in a way I’m glad I witnessed this cult classic since I always wondered about it back in the days of my old local video store: Easy Video. The iconic poster with the spoof on Whistler’s Mother always gave me a chuckle then. Would I recommend, Mother’s Day? I’d say sure, see it, but it has not aged well at all.