Rating: ★½ out of 5
Mother’s Day, written and directed by Charles Kaufman (brother of Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman), tells the story of three women who go out to the woods for an annual camping trip, only to be taken hostage by two sadistic, backwoods brothers and their unhinged mother. The film quickly establishes the three women, Abbey, Jackie, and Trina, as longtime friends with years of shared experiences. They plan these annual get togethers to relieve the stress of their daily lives and bond with one another. However, not much screentime is dedicated to their backstory, and the majority of the film follows them as they attempt to escape their captors. The two inbred brothers, Ike and Addley, are hopelessly devoted to their mother, who puts them through rigorous combat training on a daily basis, and has created a secluded world in which they worship her and obey every command.
The film immediately shows similarities with Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), a far superior and more horrific film about a deranged family that captures, tortures, and murders a group of unsuspecting 20-somethings. But, unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Mother’s Day just feels like a derivitive attempt at rape-revenge horror with a superficial “deeper” side. It is always very evident in films, particuarly horror films, when the filmmakers put in contrived symbolism and Freudian imagery in an attempt to raise their film above the level of mere exploitation. In this one, they drive home the “overbearing mother” theme by briefly showing Abbey’s home life, where her mother mercilessly berates her for not taking care of “a sick old woman,” and the audio of the mother’s screams comes back toward the end of the film when Abbey confronts the deranged mother at her house in the woods. They even go as far as using a pair of plastic blow-up breasts to suffocate one of the characters (to really drive home the “your mother is killing you” point). And these are just a few examples.
Cheesy symbolism aside, this is simply not a very good film. The plot is just a flimsy, half-plausible excuse to show exploitative carnage. But even for those drawn to blood and gore, the film will be disappointing. There are 70s and 80s slasher films with much more impressive special effects and death scenes, even on a similarly meager budget (again, go check out The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). And, while much of the horror is supposed to arise from the perverse family dynamic, much of the behavior and backstory of the psychotic hillbillies is simply bizarre and confusing, rather than horrifying.
The film’s low video and audio quality can be forgiven considering the budget ($115,000 USD), but it doesn’t change the fact that many of the scenes are both poorly staged and simply ugly to look at. Natural lighting is used far too often, and the poor camera quality gives every shot an ugly, smudged appearance. On some level, Mother’s Day is more of a parody of a horror film than a legitimate horror film, but it is still not very enjoyable or memorable, and there are far better low-budget slashers out there.