Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 19th, 2012
“I’m so proud of my boys. They never forget their Momma.”
What did you do for your mother the last Mother’s Day? Did you buy her some flowers and candy? Perhaps you took her out for a little adventure. You might have even cooked her a special meal. If you’re like Ike (Coffin) and his brothers, you treat your mom to a show. You torture, rape, and kill a few women who happen to find themselves in the woods. Good times, right?
Charles Kaufman is the brother of Troma leader Lloyd Kaufman. He’s written and/or directed a handful of things over the last 40 years. None of his other projects comes close to Mother’s Day in the collective memory of extreme horror fans. Long before Eli Roth was bringing unsuspecting tourists to The Hostel, Kaufman was serving up one of the most disturbing films of all time. It builds on the graphic nature of Straw Dogs and I Spit On Your Grave and delivers the standard for depravity and graphic violence. The film was quite hard to find for years. There were not-so-good bootleg versions on tape, and it was a popular search item at horror conventions in the 80’s and early 90’s. Even guys like Eli Roth considered it the holy grail of horror films and spent a lot of time and energy seeking out a copy to find out what all the fuss was about. Now he considers it his favorite horror film of all time. If you watched any of the Hostel films this sure does explain a lot of things. Actually, he’s not the only filmmaker inspired, if that’s the correct word, by this landmark film.
The plot is about as simple as they come. Young women find themselves out in the wrong woods. This is where “the boys” search for victims to torture and rape in front of the neck-brace-wearing Momma. She laughs hysterically and goads the boys on as they perform their sadistic acts for her pleasure. She organizes competitive games to train the boys in killing and torture techniques. They’ve got a regular military-style training ground with sack dummies to practice their skills. Along comes Abby (Hendrickson) who is about to turn the tables on Momma and her precious boys.
The film is more than a gross mash-up. Kaufman is actually trying to make a few social points in all of this madness. There’s a television in every room of the house, and the screens constantly play these made-up commercials. They are quite entertaining, and one of the most amusing parts of the production. You find yourself watching again to concentrate on the screens. Of course, you can’t really get much, but it does offer a much-needed comic relief from all of the depravity of the film. He’s obviously commenting on commercialization and communication of the “modern” world. All the while he’s doing it in the framework of a purely exploitation film. It’s a kind of twisted genius.
This is one of those older films that don’t seem tame when compared to today’s standards. It’s still a pretty disturbing film over 30 years later. The Blu-ray release will help it find a whole new audience. The film never lets up, and you will find it to be one of the grossest films you’ve ever seen. This one ain’t for the faint of heart.
Mother’s Day is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 20 mbps. Look. This is a 30 year old very low budget film. There’s not much that a high-definition image presentation can do to change the source material. The print shows wear and plenty of scratches and artifacts. The best you can hope to have here is an image that preserves that low-budget late 1970’s film look. That’s exactly what you get here. The condition of the picture and print are a part of the experience.
The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 is not going to win any prizes. The film has plenty of flaws in the sound design. Again, it’s part of the authentic experience, and you shouldn’t want it any other way. Dialog cuts through, and so does some of the bone-crunching/gut wrenching action.
There is an Audio Commentary with Kaufman. It cuts in and out a lot. I’m not sure why. The cuts are harsh and obvious.
Behind The Scenes Of The Original Mother’s Day: (10:02) This piece is Super 8mm test footage with commentary.
Eli Roth On The Subversive Political Subtext: (13:07) The filmmaker sits on the edge of a bed and talks candidly about his own search and experience with the film. The influence is actually pretty obvious.
Mother’s Day At Comic Con: (8:08) A sit-down at Comic Con with Kaufman and remake director Darren Lynn Bousman.
The film was remade by Darren Lynn Bousman, whom we interviewed on this site a few weeks ago. That film didn’t really have nearly the same impact. The trouble is that you can’t duplicate this sort of film without looking like you’re trying to duplicate it. Smartly, Bousman never set out to copy the original. He knew he couldn’t. Still the comparisons are inevitable and can kill any remake. Now you have the original looking as good as it ever will. If you can stomach this thing then “you have made your mother very proud”.