Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blu-Ray Review: Mother's Day


Directed By: Darren Lynn Bousman 

Starring: Rebecca DeMornay, Jaime King, Patrick John Flueger, Warren Cole, Frank Grillo 

Following a disastrous bank robbery attempt that leaves one of their number critically wounded, three brothers head for their childhood home to take refuge until the dust settles. What they don’t know is their mother (De Mornay) recently lost possession of the house in a foreclosure and no longer lives there. Instead, they stumble across the new owners, a young couple and their guests, who are in the middle of a birthday celebration. Seeing no alternative, the brothers take the partygoers hostage before contacting their mother to explain their dilemma. Willing to do anything to protect her offspring, mother arrives at the scene, along with her only daughter (Woll), and immediately takes control of the situation while masterminding a plan to help her family escape across the border from the US into Canada . Unfortunately for the hostages, mother’s plot requires some serious funding and she’s determined to get hold of it any way she can. So begins a long night of psychological terror in which loyalties are tested, secrets are revealed and sins are punished by a deeply disturbed woman with maternal instincts that can only be described as sociopathic.

Horror isn’t dead, it’s being reborn, and Mother’s Day is a prime example of how a “remake” should be produced. I used quotation marks because this isn’t so much a remake as a loose interpretation. However, it’s still a remake as some of the premise and character names of the original have been used. This movie has it’s origins in the Charles Kaufman directed Troma film from 1980. That film was comedic compared to this tense and dark version. Newcomer Scott Milam turns in a fantastic screenplay full of red herrings and twists. It’s great to watch the movie twist and turn against expectations. I don’t think there was a time when I could honestly say “I saw that coming”. The director Darren Lynn Bousman has plenty of experience, in particular directing Saw films; in ratcheting up the tension to almost brain curdling levels.

The acting is realistic and very good. Most of the cast come from good solid acting roles in television; gone are the days when that meant bargain basement. This production is not high budget but it doesn’t need to be, the quality is there. 

Rebecca DeMornay is suitably creepy in the role of Natalie Koffin or “Mother”. She does wonders with this role. With Hollywood and US TV studios being youth centric because of the demographic that watch TV and movies now (apparently), it’s a joy to see Rebecca DeMornay give an outstanding performance, showing that the older woman has a lot to offer movies. Ok, for me, she’ll always be Lana, in Risky Business. That isn’t ageist on my part but more to do with the fact that Risky Business was such an iconic film.

Her acting, in Mother’s Day gravitates between maternal caring and cold brutality. A little like her onscreen siblings; just as you think the acting is going too far and too over the top, they rein it in: Both Warren Kole (Addley Koffin) and Matt O’Leary (Johnny Koffin) stretch credibility with their roles, without going over that line past melodrama with their psychopathic behaviour. The screenplay contains a metaphor for nature and nurture in the way that life has effected Natalie Koffin, and the subsequent way in which she has brought up her children. A bad situation has led to bad choices and then led to her doing bad things. It elicits a tiny bit of sympathy for the character and it helps in the way that DeMornay plays the part. At first we see the obsessive love she has for her children and how far she’d go to protect them. As time goes on, that sympathy erodes. 

Jaime King (Beth Sohapi) is excellent as the wife with a few secrets. Beth gets punched, kicked, and generally abused. King makes it all the more painful by her realistic acting. Frank Grillo (Daniel Sohapi) plays her husband with the right mix of cowardice and guilt. Shawn Ashmore (the Ashmore from the X-Men, not Smallville) delivers another reliable performance as a Doctor forced to deal with the Tim Roth inspired performance from the gut shot Matt O’Leary. Ashmore plays the role with a nervous calm that is impressive to watch and similar to his role in Frozen (directed by Adam Green). I liked seeing Deborah Ann Woll outside of her role as Jessica Hamby, in True Blood. I thought she was a little underused in Mother’s Day. Her character, Lydia Koffin, looks as if she’s going to be act a certain way and then the movie moves on in a slightly, if not inevitable way. Lyriq Bent took time out from the excellent Rookie Blue and puts in a very physical performance. There is no weak link in the cast. While not all the characters may be likeable, the actors do a great job in maintaining the suspense generated by the plot and direction.

A special mention must go to the cameo by AJ Crook. She is known for playing the demure and stunningly pretty “JJ” in Criminal Minds. In Mother’s Day, she plays a girl out on the town, with a friend, waiting to use the cash point. I won’t say how that scene plays out but she’s dolled up to look a lot different than she normally looks.

I’ve purposefully steered away from talking much about the plot. I feel that it’s very important to go into the movie knowing only the synopsis. If you like the sound of that, chances are that you’ll embrace the movie and love what the cast and crew have done with it. In promoting the film “From the Director of Saw II, III and IV” there is a suggestion that the movie might follow a similar route. I hope potential viewers will disregard the tagline and see it for the more original type of horror movie that it is. 

The DVD/Blu-Ray is out now.

Score: 9/10

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