Happy Mother’s Day from SHOCK! Here’s a less cheery look at one of cinema’s best “bad mother” movies!
Just in time for Mothers Day, this writer popped up Scream Factorys release of the somewhat obscure and forgotten Gothic thriller YOULL LIKE MY MOTHER, a picture I had never heard of. And I pride myself on at least being aware of every horror film of this vintage. But this one totally escaped me. And I’m very glad to discover it’s eerie charms…
Like their release of the lurid shocker BLOOD AND LACE late last year, the label deserves a high-five for dusting off a less discussed American genre film and laying such love upon it. But unlike the grease-ball BLOOD AND LACE, YOULL LIKE MY MOTHER was a studio picture of some budget and pedigree. Its directed by veteran Hollywood gun-for-hire Lamont Johnson, who most readers of this website will remember for his sterling work on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, having helmed such key TZ episodes as Kick the Can and Five Characters in Search of an Exit. And it stars TV darling Patty Duke (who we lost recently) as well as THE WALTONS (and later, STEPHEN KINGS IT) favorite Richard Thomas. It’s based on a novel, by author Naomi A. Hintze. And its no cheapie exploitation picture. Rather, its an elegant, slow burning mystery, artfully shot and driven by character and it’s one of the few non-Canadian horror movies to effectively use snow-smothered winter landscapes to propel a natural, unyielding aura of dread.
Duke stars as Francesca, pregnant widow to a Vietnam vet, who takes an impossibly long bus ride out to the frozen Minnesota countryside to visit her mother-in-law (Rosemary Murphy), whom shes never spoken to, let alone met. The unannounced drop-in doesnt go as planned when said mistress of the impossibly huge, isolated house (the Glensheen Estate in Duluth, which some years later was the site of a spate of real murders) immediately spits bile and abuse upon the girl, blaming her for her sons death and flatly telling her that she is not, nor never will be, welcome in her home or life. As Francesca prepares to leave, the snow is so intense that mama demands she spend the night, out of what sliver of kindness rests in the matriarch’s otherwise black heart. Francesca agrees and is almost immediately thrust into a nightmare, as the maniacal crone begins to drug her, keeping her a prisoner in the house. In between hazy rounds of sleep and wake, the girl finds an ally in her mother-in-law’s near-mute, mentally disturbed daughter Kathleen (Sian Barbara Allen). Things get darker and stranger and soon, the true, twisted nature of the familys grim secret is revealed.
Casual horror fans might loathe YOULL LIKE MY MOTHER. The twist is revealed early on, leaving the weight of the picture on Duke and her attempt to escape the house that will otherwise become her tomb. But the strength of the film lies in watching the perverse domestic relationship at its core evolve. In many ways, it recalls Nicholas Gessner’s THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE; it too was based on a novel and both films are faithful to their sources, refusing to streamline their narratives, letting the deliberate pacing echo the structure of the text. Its like watching a book.
YOULL LIKE MY MOTHER belongs to its era and, likely due to Johnsons training in television and the presence of Duke and Thomas, feels like it belongs on the small screen, intimate and unpretentious as it is. Its a pleasure to watch and offers many atmospheric, psychotronic moments that will appeal to a certain audience as well as a haunting bass and woodwind score by Gil Melle (THE SENTINEL). It certainly worked for me. And on the back-end of the Blu-ray, a fantastic feature with Allen and Thomas fleshes out the picture’s legacy and, even if you don’t enjoy the movie, it will help you at least appreciate it more.
While many of you are celebrating the wonder and warmth of your own mothers on this day, YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER is the perfect, deranged exorcism for those readers whose mamas maybe werent quite so nurturing