In the late 1970’s Lloyd Kaufman, who would become known for his own gross-out horror/comedy films, produced Mother’s Day for his brother Charles. Revered as a classic of its kind, and era, it’s got a nasty mix of uneasy comedy, low rent special effects, and a genuinely creepy concept that make it much better than it has any right to be.
Three ex-college roommates set off for an annual surprise get together. Each year, one of them chooses an activity that the others aren’t aware of and for this particular year, they are venturing into the pine barrens of New Jersey. As is required of films of this type, the trip is anything but relaxing. Not long into their vacation, they’re kidnapped by two men and gifted to their mother for some “family fun”.
For a low budget film, it’s an entertaining, if slow going, affair. Roughly the first hour of the film is devoted to the trio of women, some exposition, and their camping trip. Once things go off the rails, however, there’s no stopping this thing, and it’s quite a bit of fun. The film opens with a pre-credits scene with “Mother” offering a ride home to a couple of hippy types attending an EST-like conference called EGO. The seemingly innocuous old lady turns the table on the devious duo, giving the audience a taste of what the film has in store.
Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson), Jackie (Deborah Luce), and Trina (Tiana Pierce) are the women in question and, given the silly script and the crazy situations they get into in the later part of the film, all do a decent job of selling their roles. The real star though is Beatrice Pons as “Mother”, who really grabs the insanity of the material and goes with it. She wisely plays it straight, as if she were one of the crazy aunts in Arsenic and Old Lace, and lets the dark comedy come through instead of “playing crazy”. The two sons Ike (Holden McGuire) and Addley (Billy Ray McQuade) are the opposite of the subtle, creepy mother and play their parts as if they’re in a bad remake of Deliverance. I can’t fault them too much, thought, as I’m sure it came down to a directorial choice.
I have to say I am mystified as to how this Blu-ray from Anchor Bay looks this good. As someone who has only seen this movie on VHS and crummy TV broadcasts over the years, this disc is a sight to behold. Who knew there was so much detail and life to be breathed into this dirty little movie? The clarity is outstanding for a film of this vintage and pedigree. There are some dings and scratches in the print, but I’m sure this wasn’t kept in the MGM vaults. The only downside do a presentation this clean is that the somewhat dodgy effects work looks even worse, but it has its charm. Fans should be overjoyed by the visuals on this disc, as it’s a pleasant surprise. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that there was much that could be done to boost the audio to match the picture. The disc offers a single audio track, in stereo, and it’s relatively quiet. Although the dialogue is never hard to hear, it’s just soft.
In the bonus features department, it’s a decent spread. First up is a commentary by Charles Kaufman and is production designer. Then a selection of screen tests and effects tests comprise the “behind the scenes” footage. I was hoping for something more substantial honestly. Next up, Eli Roth goes on an entertaining rant about his love for this film, and lastly a trailer wraps it up.
Anchor Bay has really given Troma fans quite a gift. The visual presentation easily blows every other version of the film on video away, and it’s worthy of the upgrade. Yet, for the uninitiated, it’s slow and unfocused as to whether it’s a female empowerment drama or a sleazy gore fest. That being said, it’s worth the trip if you’ve never seen it. And a quick bit of advice: the next time you think about helping out a little old lady, think twice!
Film Score: 3/5 Disc Score: 3.5/5