Darren Lynn Bousman
Scott Milam (Screenplay: Charles Kaufman, Warren Leight)
Rebecca De Mornay, Jaime King, Patrick Flueger, Warren Kole, Deborah Ann Woll, Briana Evigan, Shawn Ashmore, Frank Grillo, Kandyse McClure, Lyriq Bent, Lisa Marcos, Matt O’Leary, Jessie Rusu, Tony Nappo, Jason Wishnowski
After helming three parts of the Saw trilogy and creating a piece of cult history in Repo! The Genetic Opera, director Darren Lynn Bousman loosely adapted Charles Kaufman’s 1980 feature about a sadistic mother encouraging her sons to rape and murder in her name. Here, the utter abandon of the original is jettisoned for a more comprehensive and developed screenplay, but not one that’s much better.
Rebecca De Mornay, who doesn’t arrive until late in the film, plays “Mother” Koffin, a seemingly principled bank robbery architect trying to clean up the mess her sons have created by botching their most recent heist. After they’ve sought her out in a house she no longer owns, they are met by a houseful of people celebrating on the night of a deadly storm. As Mother Koffin tries to extract enough money to help them flee the country, the body count rises as her duplicitous, treacherous, and deadly ways begin building a body count.
At the same time as horror is experiencing a resurgence of creative energy, many other films in the genre have gone the opposite direction, becoming rather simplistic, focusing on delivering the most bloody and exhausting slaughters they can while ignoring the challenges of developing a competent, convincing plot. Mother’s Day doesn’t quite achieve believable, but with the help of experienced menacer De Mornay, the film goes a long way towards creating a sense of competency and inventiveness.
Eighteen years after her Oscar-caliber performance in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, De Mornay is showing these young actors just how it’s all done. The rest of the cast is from the modern era of horror acting. Honestly, they are the same kind of disconnected, passable performances that have always dominated horror, but that doesn’t apply to De Mornay in the least. She remains a class act, creating utter revulsion at her simultaneous sweetness and depravity.
Bousman eschews the excessively schlocky elements by giving his actors, especially De Mornay, room to maneuver around the weaker elements of the narrative. Remaking an existing film is always a challenge and whereas the original Mother’s Day came from an era of shabby excess in horror, this remake tries to rein things in and make it all seem more credible and realistic. Each film can stand on its own, but the end result here is still a modestly forgettable affair that successfully employs De Mornay’s talents without rising to meet her in terms of quality.
With De Mornay, Mother’s Day carefully straddles the line between quality and cheesy. That alone is an achievement, which can entertain the audience if they don’t dig too deeply into the surrounding film’s relative mediocrity.
November 30, 2020