Mother's Day (1980)
WRITERS: Charles Kaufman and Warren Leight
DIRECTOR: Charles Kaufman
STARRING: Holden McGuire as Ike
Billy Ray McQuade as Addley
Rose Ross as Mother
Nancy Hendrickson as Abbey
Deborah Luce as Jackie
Tiana Pierce as Trina
QUICK CUT: A pair of backwoods mischief makers kidnap three girls on a getaway weekend and torment them to make their mom happy.
Ike and Addley - The two momma's boys. They've spent all their lives on their mother's farm in the woods. They only know the world through the lens of the television, and what their mother has told them. Needless to say, their worldview is a bit warped. They will do anything for their mother, and are afraid to ever leave her for fear of the evil Queenie lurking in the forest.
Mother - Domineering is putting it mildly. She has spent her kid's entire lives warping their perceptions and wants, making them entirely dependent on her, and making sure they will never leave her. She is clever, manipulative, and strong willed.
Jackie - One of the Rat Pack, the trio of girls who have been friends since college and get back together once a year, no matter what. She's just wasting her life away quietly in New York City, moving from one loser boyfriend to another.
Trina - Arguably the most successful of the Rat Pack, who married her way up the social circle in California after college. The one least interested in their yearly meetings, and the one most likely to just stop coming.
Abbey - The quiet, shy girl of the trio. She's stuck much like Ike and Addley taking care of her mother, but with slightly less manipulation.
THE GUTS: Finally, an honest to Kaufman film from Troma! I've been wanting to get around to one of these for ages, but often they have that "we know we're bad!" thing to them, which makes them hard to do. But with the remake from last year, and a new DVD finally being available, I decided it was long past time to take a look at Mother's Day, one of the classics! And since yesterday WAS Mother's Day, well...
We open up innocently enough in one of those inspirational seminar self help type dealies. Or possibly a cult meeting, it could go either way with these things.
Two of the hippies in the meeting seem truly changed by the experience, thanks to discovering the tools within...please let them die fast. Anyways, they bum a ride off a kindly old lady, and set out for home.
But things are not what they seem, as the girl distracts the old woman, and Charlie gets a rope ready in the backseat. She has a neck brace though, and I have to wonder how well strangling her would actually work.
Anyways, the car breaks down, and the wannabe killers wait while the woman fixes their ride. Oh, if she only knew what they had planned, she might not be so helpful, eh?
Remember what I said about things not being what they seem? Yeah, turns out the kindly old lady lured the kids out into the woods to get killed themselves. Oops. I like subverting things by turning the kind woman into a premediatated murderer. With a homicidal family. For the time, this was a truly rare thing to do.
After Charlie gets his head popped off, it's Terry's turn for torture, but she has to live with it, when one of the mama's boys decides to get a little bit rapey. Well, that's one way to start your movie in the sleaziest way possible.
The two guys take turns pouncing and punching on poor Terry, until their mom tells them to stop. Thankfully she also tells them to stop just as we get a closeup shot of one of their crotches. Thanks, mom.
Mom just smiles as Terry begs for her life, but instead of letting her live, momma would rather use the rope that would have killed her on the victim.
The credits sequence of all things, happens in the past. Seriously. It's a slideshow narrated by three women, and it takes place in 1970. Then the movie jumps ahead ten years. That's a first, making your credits a flashback.
We meet the three women in the present, seeing where they've ended up in those ten years; one in LA as a successful woman throwing a pool party, another in Chicago where she's stuck taking care of her poor mother, and the last in NYC, where she's kinda somewhere in between. Not quite stuck, but not quite successful either. Oh, and being attacked by her boyfriend.
Jackie sends the other two telegrams to bring them all together and hopefully get the story rolling.
This movie is so, so very 80s. It's not even 15 minutes in, and already I've seen two people just casually doing coke, without a care in the world. Might as well be smoking.
Jackie meets Trina and Abbey on the side of the road to pick them up for their annual reunion and disappearance into who knows where. Well, Jackie knows, since she's driving, but she makes the other two wear bags over their heads until they arrive to not spoil the secret.
This wouldn't be a horror movie without stopping at a remote gas station and being warned by the Harbinger to not go up into them there woods, so the movie dutifully complies with the well established tropes in that regard.
I like the pace the movie is taking here. We spend a lot of time with these three girls, as they slowly come together, travel off into the woods, and hike up to their campsite. The movie almost delves into slapstick comedy, and it really helps you get to know the girls, and gives you the broad strokes of their personalities. Most notable is Trina getting pretty bored with these annual meetings. I guess the high life and glamour of California have spoiled her against camping.
Jackie disappears, and comes back with a knife stabbed in her back. It's just a prank though, and you just know this bit of crying wolf is going to come back and bite her in the ass later.
Although the bonding does start to get a little tedious when we flash back to the Rat Pack's college days again, and see the trio humiliating one of Jackie's asshole boyfriends. Fortunately, we see they are being watched back in the present. It's the lone flashback in the movie proper, and while it does show the strong bond the girls have with each other, it does feel quite out of place, being the only sort of thing the whole movie.
They spend the day doing campy type things, and pulling more pranks on each other, and yes, they include a topless swimming scene. Because this is a horror movie in the early 80s. Finally, a third of the way through the movie, as the girls try and sleep, the two brothers jump out of the woods and collect the three girls by tying them up in their sleeping bags. The imagery is very reminiscent of cavemen dragging their own catches home, and sums up the brothers and their views on the girls with perfection.
I love that the boys are so proud with their haul as they brag to momma about the girls like they were catching fish. And it is added to by mom remindind them to wipe their feet off and give their momma a kiss. It is such a *normal* moment between a mom and her boys that we ALL know...and yet a REALLY FUCKED UP scene at the same time.
Addley and Ike take their new toys upstairs and show off the girls, before tying them down to excercise equipment. Mom decided that Jackie gets to go first for whatever they have planned, and Ike puts her on a leash as they head back outside.
What they have planned is...interesting, to say the least. They get out a park bench, sit Jackie down, and Ike explains a scene to her. They are actually making her play out a strange little scene for their mom. It is most strange, and again, an unexpected turn of events. There's no way you saw this coming when you say down to watch the movie.
Things take a more expected turn when Jackie gets suddenly pinned down with a knife to her throat, but it is called to a stop when momma notices one of her hands is free. Are...are they practicing attacking girls, to get it right, for when they pull stunts like the car at the start of the film? Okay, that's creepy.
Creepy Killer Training Classes wrap up for the night at this backwoods branch of the Hans Gruber Movie Villains Academy, and everyone goes back inside to get some sleep. And a plot point is dropped when momma makes sure to tell the boys to lock up good, because Queenie is lurking outside waiting.
The following morning, we get treated to Ike and Addley waking up, and get to see that their rooms are pretty much the rooms of children. Cartoony sheets, Big Bird alarm clock, pornos poorly hidden away. Even bunk beds! It's a good way to show just how stunted their mother has made their development. They've never progressed beyond their childhood years, all for her own personal gratification.
While the kids eat their breakfast, Trina is trying her best to escape, when she finds a handy nail sticking out of the wall that she can just about wiggle her tied up hand over towards. Nice that they spend some time building up the villains as well, almost using the second act as a twisted mirror image to the first. How often do you get to see your bad guys having a bowl of cereal?
Trina's escape attempts are moot though, because Ike and Addley come upstairs to feed their new girlfriends breakfast, so he just cuts her loose anyways. Points for trying, though!
Before anything bad can happen, mother calls her boys outside to do their excercises, leaving the girls behind, untied. And the excercises end up being more fun training to be fucked up psychoes. Things run the gamut from your regular stuff like push ups and punching things, to the other end of the scale, with stabbing dolls, and going all Gallagher on watermelons.
While the boys take a break from the crazy backwoods hillbilly classes, the two girls still locked upstairs start working on a plan of escape. Trina ties herself into one of the sleeping bags, and has Abbey lower it down to the ground. That's...pretty clever, actually. Even if I question the strength of the shoelace thin rope they're using to do the lowering.
Trina hurries back inside and lets Abbey out, so the pair can try and find their missing third wheel. While searching, they do manage to come across the leftovers of Charlie and Terry from earlier. They finally find Jackie stuffed into an oversized drawer in the kids' room. Hey, I remember doing that at hotels! ...Don't ask.
Jackie's alive, but pretty traumatised from...well, everything so far. The best the other girls can do is try and carry her out of the house, past the two crazy people and their mother. What could possibly go wrong?
They make a surprisingly good go of it, really. Until Ike jumps in and tackles them, calling for help. Oh, so close girls.
Before they can be punished, mother screams out, and the boys rush to her side out on the lawn. She tells them Queenie attacked her, and she's in the woods, being pretty manipulative in saying she was almost killed because her boys left her alone. Man, she has these boys wrapped around her finger.
All of this gives the girls actual time to escape deep into the woods. Well, we'll see how deep they get while carrying the still catatonic Jackie. After getting what I guess they consider a safe distance away, they cover her up with branches, in a way that only the two mentally defficient brothers would miss.
Deciding to stay behind and watch over their friend, Abbey sends Trina back through the woods for help. She makes it to the car, but discovers the family have already been there and ruined the engine.
Trina runs along the road into the night, and eventually flags down a cop car. She rushes into the calming embrace of the officer, who surprise! Turns out to be Ike in disguise. They really are acing all their classes in slasher villainy. Not so much the 'don't get kneed in the groin' class though, since that lets Trina escape some more.
Ike tries to shoot her as she runs, but he's also failing his marksmanship classes, I guess. The shots do catch the attention of Abbey and Jackie though, and the latter's heart just can't take anymore so she passes out of the movie.
Trina hides in the bushes and uses a tossed rock to distract Ike, and he uses his normal pouncing routine to chase after the noise. Unforunately, he sails right over the edge of a hill and takes a long spill down to level ground. He doesn't end up getting seriously hurt or injured, but it gets him out of the way for awhile.
Meawhile, back at Casa del Crazy, Addley's playing backgammon with his mother, but all he wants to do is be out hunting the girls. He questions her story about Queenie, and shows some rudimentary signs of intelligence because of it, but all he gets is a smack from mom.
We get some backstory on this Queenie figure, supposedly mom's sister, whom was either killed shortly after birth by HER mother, or somehow survived and left in the woods to fend for herself and terrorise her remaining family. This could go either way, really. I like leaving the question up in the air as to whether this boogeywoman is real, or just another means of manipulation by momma.
Back with the girls, they've geared up and carried Jackie back to the Whack Shack, and the establishing of their always together attitude comes to the fore. The remaining members of the Rat Pack have vowed vengeance upon the hicks, and things are about to get bloody. This pretty much makes that earlier flashback worth the trouble.
Addley heads upstairs to get the map of the woods so the Swiss Family Crazisons can go and find the girls, but the surprise is on him. He hears them rustling around outside, only to be jumped by Abbey from behind, stabbed through the neck, and getting a hatchet in the nuts. Lesson the first, do not fuck with the Rat Pack.
They carry Addley out of the house, and Ike crashes the party by literally jumping out a second story window onto the group. Seriously, this guy has like one move; jump and tackle. Yet, it proves rather effective. Even if he is like a cat who sees a mouse.
Ike doesn't deal well with his brother being killed, and starts choking Trina. Abbey grabs some nearby drain cleaner and shoves it down his throat. It doesn't kill him right away, but the girls do get away for the moment.
He follows her into the house, barely able to move forward from the pain, and completely misses Abbey coming up behind him with a tv. Even with all that, he's still not quite dead. Ike can do little more than grope at Trina though, and she finishes him off with repeated blows from a knife in his brain.
Abbey stalks through the house trying to find momma, but gets the tables turned on her as the old woman starts following her around the lair. Down in the basement, the girl comes out screaming, with a knife seemingly stuck in her back. Momma cries out triumphantly to her boys for a job well done, but yep!
It's just the same gag Jackie used earlier as a prank. It's a great callback, makes that setup worth the time, and also works as a way to honour their fallen friend by using her own trick as a means to take out her killers. Chekov would be proud.
Trina comes up behind momma and starts to tie her up. She calls out that she's a sick woman, she needs help, blah blah blah. She didn't show mercy when others begged her for help, so she's unlikely to get any now that the shoe is in the other foot.
And it doesn't. Something inside Abbey snaps, hearing the same cries she's heard for years from her own sick mother, and she gets her revenge on both of the mothers in her life. She grabs an inflatable pillow and uses it to smother momma, having enough of her own mother's shit to fuel her murderous rage. Oh, and the pillow is shaped like breasts, because of reasons.
The girls bury their friend, and head out into the woods to try and find their way home, giving the movie a nice, happy ending! Yay!
Video: A really decent looking transfer, for a low budget movie. Everything is clear and crisp, with the darkness rarely engulfing too much detail they didn't intend to.
Audio: Again, everything is clear, and even mumbly mouthed Ike who has trouble speaking with the hillbilly dentures is easy to understand.
Sound Bite: "I swear, sometimes you boys act just like little savages!" Mom to her kids. Because um...they kinda are...
1 - Charlie gets decapitated four minutes in.
2 - Terry by strangulation.
3 - Jackie from the after affects of being beaten, raped, and traumatised.
4 - Addley, axed in the nuts, stabbed in the neck, and choked with a stuff shoved down his throat.
5 - Ike, choked with Drano, smashed with a television, and then stabbed in the face with an electric knife.
6 - Momma, smothered with a pillow boob.
7 and 8 - Abbey and Trina, presumably done in by Queenie behind the credits
Best Corpse: Oh, so many to choose from. All the villains deaths were so perfectly appropriate for their character, from Ike always wanting to be on tv, to Addley's sexism, to mom being killed by suckling at a teat... I'll go with Ike, since it's hard to beat being crushed by a tv.
Blood Type - B-: There's not a ton of blood here, but they do have some good splashes of crimson, and the effects are spot on for a low budget 80s movie. The decapitated head, the slashed hands...good stuff!
Sex Appeal: Topless swimming and frequent tearing off of clothes.
Movie Review: This movie turned out pretty decent. It's one of Troma's best, as it has a pretty coherent storyline, isn't TOO tongue in cheek, although it does play with a bit of humour. It has an interesting structure that works for it, featuring the ladies for the first act, then the villains, and then the final battle. There's a few scenes that just don't work structurally like the lone random flashback, but it's hard to see how you get that information across otherwise, so I'm not too bugged by it. The acting is slightly above average for these sorts of things, and thanks to the brothers being imbeciles, they get away with more cheese than they normally would. Their mother is astounding though, and is perfect for the role. The women may be victimised, but they come through it stronger, and actually end up being more fully realised characters than most of those in modern horror movies. A four out of five bowls of cereal.
Entertainment Value: It is easy to see why this is a classic. It's subversive, it changes up the tropes while still using some of them, so you never truly know what it is going to do at any given moment. It has layers and layers of stuff going on, and the more I watched it, the more I saw, and the more I liked. The characters are all memorable, even the lesser ones that just breeze through the plot. It's silly and knows it, but still manages to tell a good story, on a limited budget. This is a must see for any genre fan, five out of five Kodak instant cameras.