Mother’s Day (2011)

Remakes of 1980’s horror films; we’ve seen so many of them it’s genuinely becoming hard to know what’s original and what’s just a re-imagining of some obscure 30 year old horror flick. They’ve dug up Night of the Demons and The Hitcher and now they’ve resurrected that classic “Day” film Mother’s Day. Sometimes you dig up graves and find treasure instead of a horrible withered husk, so was it worth spading away 30 years to bring this old dog back to life? No. No it wasn’t.

When the absurdly named Sohapi family bought their new home they had no idea it had been previously owned by a psychotic child-snatching lunatic called Mother (Rebecca De Mornay). A birthday party for husband Daniel is in full swing when Mother’s three “sons” return – one with a brutal gunshot wound – and hold them all hostage. To make matters worse, a Tornado is coming and the police are out looking for the bank-robbing trio. Can the Sohapi couple and their pile of friends survive the night, or will Mother and her children slowly take them apart one by one…?

Mother’s Day 2011 is so different to the original it seems entirely unnecessary to cite the 1980’s version as anything but “inspiration” and that the re-makers stole the title and some of the character names. Replacing the “three female college graduates have a party-in-the-woods” dynamic with “a total berk has his party gate crashed” is not an entirely horrific thing, but Mother’s Day insists on having a truckload of subplots too, so what was originally a simple idea has now become a tendrilled behemoth that just won’t die. It tries too hard to surprise and twist and turn and fails to focus on making any sense…

Screenwriter Scott Milam had clearly written an unwieldy monster of a script and then been forced to chop it down. By doing so, the film ends up being a face-palmingly dumb piece of senselessness with so many holes it leaks questions like waterfalls. Not only are the character’s actions questionable, there are bin men doing their rounds during a tornado warning, a single cop investigating the psychotic killers’ old house, some dolled-up girls queuing for a cash machine BEFORE a tornado (what, exactly, were they intending to spend the money on?! An anchor?!) And a tonne of other things that simply make no bloody sense. And these are scenes slapped into the script that could’ve been cut… which is utterly ridiculous for a film of this length.

Mother’s Day is simply far too long. Clocking in at around 112 minutes it is inexcusable for a psychological horror / thriller / whatever to be this long without also being absolutely stunning throughout, which it isn’t. Much like Orphan, which absurdly topped the 2 hour mark, Mother’s Day thinks it is much smarter than it actually is and is jam-packed with entirely superfluous scenes that should’ve mercilessly suffocated the cutting room floor. That said, the ending is infuriatingly short and head-scratchingly confused, slapped on quickly and without much care. I reckon the DVD will be choking with deleted scenes and alternate endings…

Mother’s Day is also tonally awkward, not really knowing what it’s supposed to be. Marketed as a psychological thriller, there are certainly elements of this, but much of the film is a traditional killers-in-the-house death fest, relishing in some horrible torture and explicit gore. Occasionally there are some smart shots or quality direction, but mostly it’s pedestrian and perfunctory, which is probably no surprise coming from the director of Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV (Darren Lynn Bousman).

There are some excellent things about Mother’s Day, however. Rebecca De Mornay is superb as Mother, bringing a quite rage with her at all times and exuding hidden menace. It’s a star performance from De Mornay and perhaps worth watching for her alone. Shawn Ashmore also continues to shine in a career full of notable performances (Joe in Frozen and Iceman in X Men 1 – 3), featuring as George the doctor, the only truly sympathetic character in Mother’s Day. Patrick Flueger is also very good as the troubled older-brother Ike Koffin (yes, the good guys are called Sohapi and the baddies are called Koffin. Don’t even get me started…). The rest of the cast cliché along in their given roles and rarely impress.

For fans of brutality and gore, Mother’s Day should occasionally impress, with shotguns fired, heads exploded, skewers stabbed and some horribly vivid mouth surgery. It’s well done (Bousman’s a pro thanks to the Saw franchise) and impressively grotesque.

Despite ripping off Halloween and The Exorcist, Bobby Johnston’s score simmers along nicely too and creates a bubbling tension. And Mother’s Day IS tense – mostly in the first thirty minutes – with underlying threats and the creeping knowledge that everything is about to escalate horribly. Sadly it fritters away tension the moment the violence begins and it spirals predictably out of control.

Mother’s Day is not horrifically terrible, nor is it absolutely fantastic, and it sits in the tepid middle ground of being a watchable thriller with some decent gore moments and some solid acting. It is not challenging, it is not harrowing, and it is not scary. Mother’s Day is basically reasonable.

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

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