mother's day | charles kaufman | warren leight | tiana pierce | nancy hendrickson | deborah luce | exploitation | hixploitation | troma | comedy | thriller | frederick coffin | michael mccleery | beatrice pons | robert collins | peter fox | luisa marsella | kevin lowe
Film: Mother’s Day
Director: Charles Kaufman
Writer: Charles Kaufman and Warren Leight
Starring: Tiana Pierce, Nancy Hendrickson and Deborah Luce
This was a movie that I’ll be honest, I don’t think I knew existed until I saw the remake. I took that home as a pre-street as it sounded interesting and then realized there was this film. Doing my research I knew this was Troma so I had some expectations for films that came from this company. I did also know about the basic premise here as well. To get into this, the synopsis is two brothers kidnap and brutalize three women for the pleasure of their demented mother.
We start this in a gymnasium where Ernie (Robert Collins) is finishing up a self-help seminar. At the end of it, an older woman is talking with a younger couple. The older woman goes by Mother (Beatrice Pons) while the other woman is Terry (Luisa Marsella) along with her boyfriend of Charlie (Stanley Knapp). Mother offers them a ride and we see the couple has something in store for her. That gets thwarted by her two sons, Ike (Frederick Coffin) and Addley (Michael McCleery). The former wears a pilot’s helmet while the other wears a sack mask. This trio takes care of the couple.
The movie then gives us an interesting introduces to our three main characters. We don’t get to see them, but we get to see pictures in the form of a slideshow. They are from 10 years ago at Wolfbreath College. There is Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson), Jackie (Deborah Luce) and Trina (Tiana Pierce). It seems like they’re getting ready to graduate. They’ve dubbed their group The Rat Pack and they make a promise that every year, they will drop whatever they’re doing to get together.
We then shift to the present. Abbey lives in Chicago with her mother who is quite overbearing. She gets a telegram from Jackie as does Trina, who is now living in Beverly Hills. She has quite the party of some film people. Jackie lives in New York City with her boyfriend Ted (Kevin Lowe). We see he’s lazy and steals money from her wallet. It is an interesting introduction that Jackie is a push-over when it comes to guys.
The plan is the three meet up with Jackie. They’re going camping in New Jersey in an area called Deep Barons. A storekeeper, Scott Lucas, tries to tell them not to go there, but when they make a mess in his store, he gives up. They go out into the woods and recount events from their past. They’re not alone though. On their second night, they are taken by Ike and Addley. They bring them to Mother. It becomes a nightmare that they weren’t expecting and a fight for survival.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie, as it doesn’t have the deepest story. What I will say though, there is some good writing here still in introducing things early into the movie and then having it play back in. That is something that I can really give appreciation to. I won’t spoil things, but there is one in particular that gets introduced during the slideshow that helps these women in their survival.
What I think also works is the depth of the characters as well. Abbey is established that she lives with her mother. Her mother is bedridden and quite nasty. This is interesting as the movie draws parallels with Mother that she has to battle against in the woods. Jackie gets established that she is a push-over when we see her with Ted. Her friends do expand on this and this includes a story with an ex she had of The ‘Dobber’ (Peter Fox). Trina does get as much fleshing out, but we know that she is strong-willed and successful. I do really buy their friendship.
Where I want to shift next is that I find this movie interesting that it came out in 1980. This is the beginning of the slasher era, but I don’t necessarily think it could fall into that. It does feel like an early one when it starts. If anything, I would say that this is more like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes. They are backwoods family that is picking off those that come around their area, making it more hixploitation Something I do have as a negative is the story of Queenie that gets introduced. This feels like the director or writers saw Friday the 13th and doing a bit of copying there if I’m going to be honest. I don’t hate that it is introduced and then used, but it doesn’t add much for me. There is also some I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left in this as well and I’d say, some of the violence against women is a bit much and not necessarily needed.
Another issue I had was with the setting. I think it is funny that it is set in New Jersey as the first thing. Being that this is from Troma, that is their stomping grounds. Being in the woods is good for isolation. My issue though is how easy they navigate the woods. The people living out there makes sense, but our ladies as they fight back don’t seem to have a lot of issues getting back to their car or finding each other. Being out in the woods is disorienting and the movie loses that for me.
Since this movie is really built on the characters and the effects, I’ll go to the former next. I don’t think anyone here is going to win awards, but they bring life to their characters. Hendrickson feels like she is her character of Abbey. Luce and Pierce I would say do as well. I liked all three of them. I’d also say that Coffin, McCleery and Pons play their characters well. My issue is that they’re over the top. The movie seems to want to give them personality and it makes them less scary for making them as whimsical as they do. Aside from that, I’d say the rest of the cast is fine in rounding this out for what was needed.
I’ll then go to the other part I brought up, which are the effects. This movie actually doesn’t have as much as I expected it to have. There are some brutal scenes though, especially when it comes to a rape scene we see. I will say that it isn’t as tough to watch as some of the other movies I’ve referenced or seen, so that is good for the movie. We get some really good practical effects. The blood is a bit orange, but I have a soft spot there. There is just one scene that I remember seeing that I didn’t hold up, but in the grand scheme I’ll take it. The cinematography is pretty solid as well. Going back to borrowing from Friday the 13th, we definitely get transitions that are similar there.
Then really the last thing I want to delve into would be the soundtrack. I’ll be honest, I dug what they were doing. It has that 70’s vibe and it really just hits an era that I’m a fan of. I wouldn’t say that this soundtrack is great or one that I’ll seek out. It does work for me though. I did also enjoy the sound design of the movie with things that they’re watching on television. There is one scene in particular with Trina that worked for me.
In conclusion here, I’m glad that I finally ticked this movie off my blind-spot list. This feels like an early slasher, but really plays more like a hixploitation movie. I think bright spots are the acting of our leads, the villains are bit comical while still working. Most of the effects were pretty solid for me and I think the soundtrack worked. There are some bad decisions that are made by characters. The movie doesn’t use its setting as well as it could. There is also some violence against women that doesn’t feel needed to me. I’m positive on this movie though. I’d say it is an above average movie. Some minor tweaks and this could have been a good one for me.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10