Mother’s Day was never going to appeal to a large audience. A remake of a 1980 film, starring Rebecca De Mornay (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) in a scenery chewing performance, directed by the man who gave us Saw 2, 3, and 4. It felt like it could either offer cheesy throwback fun or turn into yet another torture film.
Beth (Jaime King) and Daniel (Frank Grillo) are having a party in their new house’s basement before a tornado arrives. In burst three men, one of whom has been shot. They are the Koffin brothers, on the run and looking for their mother (De Mornay). When they learn that Momma lost the house due to foreclosure, the brothers take the new owners and their friends hostage. Soon Mother is on her way to sort out their mess.
Instead of choosing one or the other, director Darren Lynn Bousman tries to have his gory cake and eat it. The film is very, very nasty indeed, not just in terms of the torture, blood and screaming, but in depicting the unpleasantness of its characters. However, the Last House on the Left message that anyone can become monstrous when pushed too far is overly familiar. It’s also repeated ad nauseam, as the friends turn on each other and the brothers are predictably psychotic. Bousman tries hard to marshal the different subgenres but after a surprisingly strong opening fifteen minutes things quickly go to pot.
De Mornay has a lot of fun with her character and her scenes are generally the best that the film has to offer. But Mother, with her toothy grin and homespun psychotic wisdom, does not mesh with the attempts at gritty, nasty realism. There are some decent performances here. King (My Bloody Valentine 3D) gives a nicely brittle turn. Deborah Ann Woll (one of the best things on True Blood), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men), and Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica) are solid, but the rest of the cast wobble as much as the rickety script.
It’s trying hard to combine an obvious affection for the slasher flicks of the 1980s with more modern, graphic endurance horror, but it simply doesn’t come off. There are effective moments, mostly involving De Mornay, but Bousman retreats into his comfort zone of people screaming while being tortured far too often. And we’ve seen that all before. An enjoyably corny ending just reinforces the lack of cohesion. At two hours this film is overlong and, disappointingly, the bad outweighs the good.
Too nasty to be fun, too cheesy to be taken seriously. Some sequences work, but the whole falls apart by the halfway point.