Directed by Charles Kaufman
Produced by Charles Kaufman & Michael Kravitz
Starring Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Holden McGuire, Billy Ray McQuade, Rose Ross
With a plethora of New Wave horror films making waves at the international box-office, it seemed only logical that some bright spark would chip in and parody the whole cycle. Afterall, we'd been given "Halloween" (1978), "Friday The 13th" (1980), "Prom Night" (1980), "To All A Goodnight" (1980) and "Christmas Evil" (1980), so the reasoning behind Charlie Kaufman's twisted black comedy was why not add to the 'holiday/event' motif by sending up the genre with the ominously named "Mother's Day"? Where previous 'calendar' horrors had taken themselves with deadly seriousness, the notion was with Kaufman's film to barb the mentality with a (un)healthy dose of humour and have a little fun with the genre, while throwing in a smattering of social satire. The joke fell short when Kaufman's black comedy was slapped with an X rating in the US by the MPAA, and international censorship bodies (most notably in the United Kingdom and Australia) failed to see the funny side of his perverse opus, where they promptly banned the film outright. What was it about the film, a backwoods cousin of Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", that upset the censors so? Well, it's like this…
Former college roommates, Jackie (Luce), Abbey (Hendrickson) and Trina (Pierce), indulge an annual reunion that tears them away from their daily lives and reaffirms their college-bred bond of friendship. The destination is always a surprise, and changes with each successive year. However, this year Trina, who achieved her goal of the Beverly Hills life, has become tired of the annual outing, and grown bored of the whole scenario. But dogged Abbey needs a break from her invalid mother, and career-girl Jackie requires a reprieve from her never-ending string of doomed relationships. Once the girls head off road into the woods of New Jersey, for a little camping, and a lot of drinking and female bonding, their real problems begin. In the depths of the night, the trio are abducted, prisoners in their own sleeping-bags, only to be unceremoniously dumped at the feet of a backwoods redneck matriarch (Ross). Swiftly turned into captives within Mother's rundown, rubbish-strewn shack, the girls become the targets of a campaign of rape and torture by Mom's 'little' boys, Ike (McGuire) and Addley (McQuade). It soon becomes apparent to the three women that they must either fight for their lives, or die humiliating, degrading deaths in the backwater wilds.
Although Kaufman decried his film's "unfair" labelling of an X rating at the time, and championed original distributor UFD's decision to release it unrated, "Mother's Day" exhibits a mean-spirited streak within the savage treatment of its female characters that is hardly compensated for by its off-kilter beat of black-humour. Purportedly director Kaufman's intention was to avoid "mixing the film's violence with any overt sex as 'consideration for the ratings board'"(Fangoria #10 pg. 12), but displays wild disregard for this notion mere minutes into the film by having McQuade expose a female victim's breasts before brutally beating her about the face with clenched fists! Even though Kaufman spouted a sense of social commentary at the time of release, with his undercurrent message of "the effect of junk culture" (Fango #10 again, pg. 58), his film's sole purpose comes across neither as clever nor intellectual as his proposed intent.
Instead, the viewer is treated to long, painful scenes of grown women suffering and being abused, a protracted and brutal rape scene, and a finale conflagration that descends into outrageous splatter excess (just how does one kill some-one with a car antenna?). The clear intention was obviously to 'go for the gross-out', nothing deeper, and Kaufman succeeds in offensively misogynistic style. Not even the jokey twist ending can save "Mother's Day" from being anything less than what it is, and that's a low budget exercise in sadistic voyeurism that was clearly not for this reviewer, not back in '84, not now. If anything, the vain attempts at black humour only succeed in intensifying the sadism of the offensive sexual violence by missively trying to gloss over the unconscionable brutality its presence. If you 'like' seeing women beaten, brutalised, battered and forcibly violated (albeit simulated), then you truly deserve this film. I don't perceive it as 'entertainment' of any form, and neither should any other rational, sane human being with half an ounce of respect for the female of the species. This stands as the one of the worst of the sad, sleazy extremes that the eighties 'slasher' cycle sunk to and I can think of at least a dozen better written, less offensive entries much more worthy of a true fans valuable time. I'm actually kind of happy that certain censors had the common sense to ban this film…
Although I am no fan of Kaufman's film, I must report for those of you that are that Shock DVD Entertainment's disc edition is quite a satisfactory presentation of the film. Presented fullscreen and seemingly directly transferred from an NTSC master (the disc is actually PAL, irrespective of what the sleeve text notes), the image belies the film's low budget origins while remaining true to the source materials. Colours are surprisingly good for an NTSC to PAL conversion, and the print remains relatively clean throughout. It's far from perfect (a bit of grain, average blacks & shadows, occasional washed out colours) but the majority of the issues are inherent with the print, not the transfer. It certainly looks far better than the PAL VHS edition I was forced to suffer through a couple of years back. Audio (Dolby digital mono) is fair to good, though once again betraying the limitations of the source.
Extras? A surprisingly informative Audio commentary by Charles Kaufman, a short animated interview with Kaufman (that unfortunately plays out over images of much of the film's sexual violence, seemingly intent on glorifying said imagery…sigh), and one of those incredibly insulting Lloyd Kaufman and the Tromettes vignettes (you know what I mean! They're a watch once for the girls [with the sound muted] and never again there after extra). Perhaps the greatest 'extra feature' of this disc (and sole redeeming feature) is the bonus disc that features the German short film "Staplefahrer Klaus: Der este Arbeitstag", which approximately translates as "Forklift-driver Klaus: First Day on the Job". Although presented in German only, with optional Dutch subtitles, viewers of any language will undoubtedly get a kick out this 10m featurette, as comedy transcends the spoken word. It's a riotously gory series of mishaps for young Klaus that veer hysterically into Peter Jackson territory by the featurette's closure. I near laughed myself off the lounge suite…
Review by Mike Thomason
|Released by American Shock DVD Entertainment|
|Classified 16 - Region 0 (PAL)|
|Running time - 91m|
|Ratio - Fullscreen|
|Audio - Dolby digital mono|
|Audio commentary by Charles Kaufman, Interview with Charles Kaufman, Mother's Day on Troma Edge TV + Bonus DVD featurette "Staplerfahrer Klaus"|
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