First Thoughts: Darren Bousman’s Mother’s Day

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Shock gets an early look at the remake

**This initially ran on July 2, however, since the film is playing at Fantastic Fest, I thought I’d dust it off.

There are movies that pretend to be tough as nails. Posturing with on-screen muscle, testosterone, the flash of a gun barrel or the glint of a knife and plenty of blood spilled. Then there are movies that, yes, carry some of those elements, but are absolutely wicked to the core, channeling the energy of a feral creature trapped in a cage. That’s Mother’s Day, a surprisingly good remake of the 1980 film of the same name directed by Charles Kaufman.

Thirty years after its initial release, the story has received a massive overhaul with the help of writer Scott Milam and barely resembles the backwoods madcap mayhem Kaufman introduced. Instead, the narrative is relocated to the suburbs where the Sohapi couple, Dan and Beth, are throwing a party with friends. Their shindig is crashed when brothers Ike, Addley and a severely wounded Jonathan burst into the home from a botched robbery. They think the house is still their mother’s place, little do they know the home was foreclosed and snatched up by the Sohapis.

The film that unfolds is a rather brutal crime caper that finds the brothers reuniting with their Mother and sister, Lydia, while the Sohapi party descends into madness. Wills and proper manners are tested, there’s the question of some missing money in the house that Mother needs to find, a battle of wits arises and there’s a whole lot of deviancy on display that recalls the grit of 1970s fare. Yet, Bousman also adapts to the vivid vigor of some of the early Italian films of the 1980s, especially the opening of Mother’s Day – a kidnapping sequence in a hospital maternity ward that’s awash in blues. Argento comes to mind, surely, but I could help but recall The House on the Edge of the Park – albeit, this is a classier spin with harder hitting performances. The script also calls in a clever and engaging gender clash that builds to a crescendo in the third act.

Rebecca DeMornay is top-notch, as you might have guessed. And there are equally strong turns by Patrick John Flueger, Shawn Ashmore and Jaime King. We see some new shades to Frank Grillo and Lyriq Bent (of the Saw films). And Warren Cole portrays an effectively creepy Addley, who’s much like that kid on the playground who takes playtime a bit too far. The violence is nasty and shocking, however, think less Saw and more Natural Born Killers in tone.

Mother’s Day represents Bousman as a maturing filmmaker and it’s perhaps his best work to date. With the Saw films and Repo! The Genetic Opera behind him, he tackles the psychological aspects of the film with terrific and intense results. Remove the references and similarities (in name only) to the Kaufman film and you’ve got a picture that can stand on its own as a strong piece of original work. However, you can’t dismiss its roots so in the genre pantheon, it’s a remake that works.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor