Blu-ray review: Mother’s Day

Starring: Beatrice Pons, Frederick Coffin
Director: Charles Kaufman

mothers-day 1Directed by Lloyd Kaufman’s brother, Charles Kaufman, this slasher from 1980 sees a trio of city girls go camping in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where they are waylaid and cruelly mistreated by a murderous granny and her vile offspring. Although the story peters out in the evil hillbillies’ crumbling shack, visually and dialogue-wise Mother’s Day has a lot going for it. The blackly comic tone, lurid sets and brightly lit, comic booky camerawork prefigure Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, released some six years later, as do the enjoyably over the top performances from the veteran Beatrice Pons as Mother and Frederick Coffin as her gurning son Ike, who looks like a refugee from a Mad Max movie. Kaufman directs with a sense of urgency, especially during a real shocker of a pretitles sequence, but he also makes time to warmly individualise the damsels in distress, who are older and wiser than your usual stalk ‘n’ slash fodder.

What lets the film down is a middle act which feels boxed in and lacking in ideas, and a later shift into girl power mode which fails to entirely convince. But still, it scores major points for having a distinctive and well-realized point of view. Interestingly, the film’s storyline bears a resemblance in several respects to Richard Laymon’s 1992 novel Blood Games – maybe he was a fan. 6/10

The brightly hued cinematography comes up very sharply indeed in this HD transfer. While there are a couple of scratches towards the beginning, there’s little or no grain. Flesh tones are attractively sandy, primary colours pop and the exteriors have a lovely sparkle. 8/10

The Blu-ray comes with a varied array of extras. There’s an intro by Kaufman, in which he explains how he graduated from making movies to selling bread and pastries, and an 8-min encounter with him at a comic-con. In a 13-min segment, Eli Roth reveals that he showed Mother’s Day at his Bar Mitzvah and draws attention to various political references in the film, and we also get 10 minutes of Super 8 test footage of various makeup FX. Sounding very like his brother Lloyd, Charles Kaufman serves up an audio commentary full of amusing insights – it’s divulged that the early pool scene was shot at his mother’s house with her friends as extras, and that he chose his (unpaid) crew on the basis of whether they owned a car which could be used for ferrying around actors and props. 8/10


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