Mother’s Day, directed Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw 2-4), is a remake of the cult 1980s Troma film directed by Charles Kaufman, not to be confused with Charlie Kaufman. In Mother’s Day, three violent bank robber brothers mess up a job in which one of them was shot. They decide to take refuge in their childhood home from the fast approaching storm. But this isn’t their house anymore; a new couple have moved in and are having a party in the basement with some friends. Events escalate into a hostage situation as the three brothers wait for their dearest Mommy to get to the house. As the situation develops it turns out that money has been sent to the house, money whose existence is completely denied.
This is a home invasion sub-genre film, a genre that spans the controversial (Straw Dogs & Funny Games) to the heart-warming (Home Alone). Mother’s day is a home invasion film for the torture porn generation. That being the case, there really couldn’t be a more fitting director to helm this project. As a genre this has become increasingly synonymous with poor characterisation in lieu of creating set pieces that are cool to look at. An idea that was first championed with the video nasties generation of films, but the ideal of cool gore was backed up by characterisation, maybe not the greatest level of detail, but there was some level of detail. The very opposite could be said of the characters in Mother’s Day, beyond the titular mother and the one of the friends of the house-owners we know nothing about the captives or captors beyond their ethnicity or emotional stereotype, nothing more is divulged to make you care about the characters.
The only level of character development that comes from anybody in this film is their willingness to sell each other out for their own needs. How are you supposed to care about anybody when they become such moral vacuums? I can see that the film is trying to say if a situation calls for it anybody can kill in cold blood. This is at its most stupid, vile even, in an exchange where one of the brothers lays down the decree that someone kills their friend or he will kill them both. This stupid subtext is used as justification for the film to be violence at every given opportunity. Whether it is somebody getting shot in the face, stabbed to death, or having boiling water poured down their ears, and even throwing the kitchen sink in the messy climax. It’s not just the violence that is consistent factor within the film there is also plenty that will offend. There are scenes of rape both implied and implicit. But one of the dozens of issues I had with the film was the disgusting attitude it had in light of people who had lost children, offensive doesn’t even come close to describing these scenes.
What we so far is a film that is filled with horrible characters which you can’t understand or like in a film which is much more focused on violence than telling a story. That’s not to say that there isn’t a story as there is, instead the film makers have used violence to inform the film’s development and not the characters changing or growing. Using this means to tell the story means that it relies on tension to create a sense of fear in the film, but instead of making you fear for the lives of the characters it drags the film on to almost unbearable lengths. Mother’s day may only be 112 minutes long, but it felt so much longer than that, as a result this ends up being a boring and offensive film.
When the original film was made horror was such a valuable commodity, films like this would have been made up of performances that were over the top making the film funny as a black comedy of sorts. The remake doesn’t relay that attitude. This is a film that takes itself deadly serious in the acting stakes. It’s unfortunate that the performances alternate between screaming histrionics and crying, it’s only then that the so-called scary mother figure is considered a brilliant performance by others. That line of logic is broken in my opinion, Rebecca De Mornay as Mother is just different, just because she talks like adults do to small children doesn’t make this a great performance. The only person to come out of the film with any credence of credibility is Shawn Ashmore who plays the doctor, George, who performs with restraint that everybody else is so lacking in.
Mother’s Day isn’t just a bad film, it’s an apocalyptically bad film with no moral standings, a fixation on gore above developing a narrative that you can emphasize with, but most shockingly of all it’s an offensive film. This isn’t just one of the worst films of the year; it’s one of the worst films I have seen in years that makes question whether I truly know what bad is.