“Mama‘s coming… and she‘s not gonna be happy . . .”
The H-Bomb: The Koffin brothers, Ike, Addley, and Johnny (Patrick Flueger, Warren Kole, and Matt O’Leary, respectively), are career criminals on the run after their latest bank robbery has gone horribly wrong. Johnny, the youngest of the three, was gut shot during the heist and is bleeding out rapidly. With roadblocks set up all over the place, and every cop within a hundred mile radius looking for them, they flee to their mother’s house to hideout… except they find that the house doesn’t look quite as they remember it.
That’s due to the fact that their mother, who they‘ve been out of contact with for quite some time, lost the house in a foreclosure. It has since been purchased by yuppie couple, Beth and Daniel Sohapi (Jaime King and Frank Grillo), who are having a party with several of their yuppie friends (including Briana Evigan and Shawn Ashmore).
Ike and Addley crash the shindig, cracking a couple of skulls in the process, and hold the terrified partiers at gunpoint while they figure out what to do next. They finally get in touch with Mother Koffin (Rebecca De Mornay), who has been following the news of her sons on TV and is none too happy about it. She tells the boys to sit tight, that she is on her way.
As they wait for Mama to show up, Ike tries to look after Johnny, who’s bleeding to death on the living room sofa, while Addley, the unstable middle brother, keeps an eye on the hostages down in the basement. Being that Addley is both ill-tempered and violence prone (in other words, he‘s a sadistic little psycho), his idea of keeping an eye on the hostages includes taunting and terrorizing them. Things quickly get out of hand, toupees are forcibly removed, hot women are perved upon, and someone gets a bullet through the face.
Then Mother arrives. After lecturing Addley on why he should never hurt women, she rips into Ike for losing that special phone she gave him, since she had no other way of contacting him and telling him she lost the house. This leads Ike to realize that he’s been sending thousands of dollars in cash (robbery money) to the house, but since his mother wasn’t living there, that means the current owners must have been receiving it.
Mother tries asking Mr. and Mrs. Sohapi where the money is, but they aren’t saying, either because they don’t know about it, or because they have it stashed. Even after enduring some bodily harm, they still aren’t talking. Mother believes that the cash is somewhere in the house, and they aren’t leaving until they find it. A night of murder, torture, mind games, and other such pleasantries ensue.
Mother’s Day had quite a bit going against it when I sat down to give it a watch. First, it’s a remake of a Troma flick from the 80’s (though apparently in name only). Second, it’s directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, whose previous efforts (Saw II, III, IV, Repo: The Genetic Opera) have left me pretty unimpressed. Third, it was shot in 2009, and only (barely) released in 2012. When a film is left sitting on the shelf for that long, it’s usually the sign of a total and complete stinker. As someone once said, “Movies don’t age like wine, they age like fish.”
That’s why, when I finally did see it, I was kind of taken aback by how fucking good this movie is! As you regular readers probably know, I watch a lot of horror flicks, and while I can enjoy a well-made one (and even some not so well-made ones), it is not very often that one will actually keep me on the edge of my seat with suspense . . . and that’s exactly what this bad little bitch managed to do!
For the majority of its two-hour run time, this fucker kicked my ass with its brutality (I’m still in awe of how mean it got), and had me utterly terrified for the victims and what they were forced to endure. I’m talking about hands getting smashed, piping-hot water being poured into ears, knives to the nutsack kind of violence. There ain’t nothing PG-13 going on around here, this shit gets bloody ugly! If you‘re thinking that it sounds too strong for you, then it probably is, and you should really just stay away.
What really worked for me, and added to the potency of it all, was the way the Koffin family totally owned and mind-fucked their hostages, often forcing them to act against each other in order to survive. At one point, Ike drops a knife between two of his victims, and whichever one picks up the knife and stabs the other to death, he’ll let live. Then there’s the sequence where one of the brothers wants some action from one of the hot ladies, and in order to figure out which lucky young lass will have to put out, their respective boyfriends will have to duke it out.
But it’s not simply the sledgehammer-to-the-gut violence, Bousman’s tight pacing, and the chaotic, anyone-can-die-at-any-time kind of atmosphere that make this flick the nail-biter it is, there are also some terrific performances that really help drive it. Kole plays the psychotic middle brother, Addley, with a feral, rabid dog-like intensity, showing what a dangerous fucking cretin he is, and that we are absolutely right to be afraid of him. King is totally convincing and sympathetic as Beth, a normal woman thrown into this horrifying situation. She gives Beth the perfect balance of fear and strength, making her an ideal heroine for us to get behind. In fact, I’ll just say, everyone in this cast is great. There are nine hostages in total, so I can’t get into all of them, but I can say they are all solid.
However, the real star, the one everybody should be raving about, is Mother herself, Rebecca De Mornay. I’ve always been indifferent to De Mornay as an actress, but that has now changed. She is absolutely incredible in this role. How she switches from kind and nurturing to evil and threatening, makes her the scariest movie villain I’ve seen since Michael Parks in Red State. Much like Parks, she manages to be uber-fucking-creepy, and completely in control of everyone around her, family and hostages, often without even raising her soft spoken voice. A lot of people commented that this, in a way, is an extension of her role in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. I can definitely see it. This is one mama bear you do not want to cross!
Now, as much as I’ve been praising Mother’s Day, I’ve only rated it 3 ½ out of 5 stars. How come? Well, I had my problems with it that did drag it down. For one thing, it is a home invasion thriller, in the vein of Desperate Hours, Funny Games, and a slew of others, and, sadly, it includes just about every cliché of this sub-genre. The most annoying, and the most obvious, one being that even though the hostages have plenty of opportunities to overtake their attackers, they don’t do it!
That leads me to something else that bugs me in horror movies, something I’ve ranted and bitched about in the past, characters making egregiously stupid decisions because the story needs them to! Why the hell doesn’t Beth, on one of the two times she incapacitates a member of the Koffin clan, just grab their gun and put two in the back of their head? Because then the movie would be over if she did! Why does one male hostage, when he sees another male hostage get into a struggle with Addley for his shotgun, just stand there and watch, instead of joining in? Even though the two of them together could easily overpower Addley? Because the fucking movie would be over if he did! I could go on and on like this, but I would like to go to bed sometime tonight. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time yelling at the characters and chastising them for their horrible survival instincts and sheer dumb-assery!
Then there’s the length, which again, is nearly two hours, which is just too long for this kind of movie. At a lean ninety minutes, this would have been an ideally tight, taut thriller. But at two hours, even though it’s never boring, it does feel a bit bloated. A main problem is that there are nine hostages, plus a few guests, as well as several plot complications (including a pregnancy), and they all have to be dealt with. The main order of business to shorten this beast would have been to trim some of the many characters, including an extraneous cop character whose main scene is blatantly ripped off from Panic Room.
But, despite being well aware of all of these issues, they didn’t dampen my enjoyment of Mother’s Day too much. Even though this (non)remake does have its problems, it still rocked me six ways from Sunday! As I stated, I’m surprised at how much I ended up liking it. It’s easily director Bousman’s best film to date. That I can say with complete confidence. If you’re a Horror fan looking for a horror movie, in this pussified age, that’s raw, wildly unpredictable, legitimately disturbing, and genuinely wince inducing (in a good way), then Mother’s Day is one you definitely need to see… just don’t see it with your mother. That I don’t recommend.