After a bank robbery goes seriously wrong, three sadistic, bloodthirsty, criminal brothers find themselves on the run. Their childhood home seems like the safest place to hide out. But a few things have changed; their mother has been evicted and the house is now occupied by a young couple and their birthday guests. Taken hostage, the new owners and friends are forced to endure a night of blood-drenched hell. Because mother’s coming home to roost and her maternal instincts involve extreme torture and a taste for terror.
In 1980, Charles Kaufman (brother of Lloyd) released Mother's Day, a schlocky and over the top Troma film about two dimwits and their crazy mother who capture and torture a trio of chicks who are out camping in the woods. What we have here, three decades later, is Saw 2-4 director Darren Bousman's pseudo remake of that film, a dark and realistic home invasion flick that resembles the Troma original only in name and general concept. In other words, if ever a remake deserved the oftentimes cop-out title 're-imagining', it's this one, a complete 360 degree change of tone from the film it is technically a remake of. Thus, Mother's Day 2010 is one of the most original horror remakes (how's that for an oxymoron?) of all time, as Bousman relies very little on the source material for ideas and instead creates a wholly standalone tale of maternal carnage, perhaps the only remake that is more unrecognizable to its original than Michael Jackson. The result? One of the better remakes in recent years, and one of the rare ones that in fact eclipses its original by a pretty large degree.
And yet, like so many good horror movies, there it sits on the shelf (at least in the US), where it has sat since its completion last year. Originally slated for release on Mother's Day 2010, the film was indefinitely pushed back and was only recently picked up by Anchor Bay, who will apparently be releasing it stateside on Mother's Day (May 13th) of next year (at least that's the tentative plan). That said, it can be (legally) seen if you really want to see it, as it recently hit home video over in the UK. But more on all that in a minute, as i'm totally straying from my review. Now where was I ...
So ya, the Mother's Day we know and love has undergone a pretty serious makeover here and wouldn't ya know it, it looks pretty damn good as a brutal pull no punches home invasion flick, one that's got a lot more going for it than your run of the mill home invasion affair. There's a lot going on here, moreso than just bad people breaking into a home and doing some slicing and dicing, and for the most part it all works quite well.
First off, the sons have no idea that they're even in a home invasion flick at first, as they're simply returning to their childhood home after a botched bank robbery, not realizing that their mother recently lost the house to foreclosure. This provides an interesting spin on the home invasion angle (as well as makes the film quite topical and relevant to the times it's being released in), being that the family doing the invading is the family that used to live in the home they're invading, and they're none too happy that all their shit has been packed away in the garage like they were never even there. But they're not just there to take out their anger and kill the new owners, who in another interesting twist are joined at the time of the invasion by a big group of their friends. Their main goal is to get enough money from them to be able to flee the country, and they'll do whatever they have to in order to get that money (one of the sons spends the majority of the film outside of the home with one of the victims, on the hunt for cash). Oh and then we've got the sheltered daughter (True Blood's Deborah Ann Woll) of the big bad mom, who may be falling for one of the captives, a doctor who is showing her that her mother is a nutjob who has brainwashed her into believing things that aren't true, as a way of controlling her and molding her into the person she wants her to be. Oh ya, and there's also a major tornado that's about to hit the area.
So we have all this going on amidst the home invasion and though things easily could've gotten pretty sloppy with all these different angles playing off each other, they never do. Instead, they work together beautifully to keep the tension at a fever pitch throughout the majority of the film, with each of those elements revealing new layers to the complex story, a story which ends up being about a whole lot more than simply a home invasion. Rather, the home invasion serves as the backdrop to a highly interesting exploration of the darkest sides of the human condition. Again, it all works pretty damn well.
One of the main strong suits of the film is the fact that the cast of captives are not your typical cookie cutter horror movie victims, but rather they're fully fleshed out three dimensional people, who are both smart and capable of fending for themselves. They just want to get out of this situation alive and so too do their captors, and it becomes a battle to see who will do what needs to be done to attain that goal. As the story progresses, we see that there are many cracks and strains in the relationships between all of these people, some who may not even be friends and some who are perhaps more than just friends, which only adds to the realism and the terror of the proceedings. Avoiding a major pratfall of so many horror films in the past, Bousman and writer Scott Milam pump a lot of the film's energy into fleshing out the captives rather than just the captors, which makes all the bad things that happen to them all the more horrifying because not only do they feel like real people, but we actually grow to like them and relate to them as well. On top of that, the captives are brought to life by solid acting all around, thanks to the talents of familiar faces like My Bloody Valentine 3D's Jaime King, Frozen's Shawn Ashmore and Sorority Row's Briana Evigan. Again, rare for a horror movie, these people truly feel like real human beings, rather than just characters written into a movie solely for the purpose of being killed off soon thereafter.
Now when those bad things do happen to these people, things get pretty damn ugly and brutal, with super realistic gore scenes that oftentimes made me cringe and clench my fists in horror and disgust. The mostly practical effects are amazing, another well executed element in a film that is full of them. So, if you're looking for gore and brutality, Bousman's got ya covered, as he usually does. Not for the faint of heart, folks!
If I have anything negative to say about the movie, it's that the ending isn't as satisfying or as effective as the buildup to it, but that buildup is strong enough that a weak and typical horror movie ending can be forgiven. What we're given in the end is at least serviceable, though it's not nearly as impactful as I would've liked it to be. But what can ya do. Aside from that, I personally didn't find Rebecca De Mornay's mother character to be as compelling or standout as most people seem to have. It's not that her performance was bad or anything, she just never (to me) became that iconic villainess that I would've liked her to be. That said, she more than gets the job done in the role, so it's really just a personal preference thing there.
Much like the Saw films, Mother's Day 2010 is an experiment in the lengths people will go to survive, though it's more what they will do to others in this than the 'how much blood will you shed' idea presented by Jigsaw. It's essentially Saw meets home invasion, a brutal film with a tension level that's high from the word go and only gets higher from there, never letting up along the way. It's a multi layered story brought to life by solid performances, well thought out characters and horrific sequences of human on human brutality, which all work together to create a white knuckle home invasion flick that's both smart and highly effective, a remake that trumps its original on every single level. It's almost not even fair to compare the two, as it'd be like comparing Troma's Toxic Avenger to a raw and real superhero movie about a dude who had a bad run-in with some toxic waste, and it's cool that we've got two entirely different takes on the subject matter to sit back and enjoy, each with their own unique appeal and strengths. Nevertheless, i've gotta give everyone involved serious kudos for taking that goofy Troma film and turning it into such a dark and realistic horror film. This is the kind of boldly original remake we need more of.
As I was saying earlier when I so rudely interrupted my own review, Mother's Day was released on UK DVD & Blu-ray this past October, so if you've got a region free player you can pick that up and check it out. If you haven't yet discovered the joys of going region free, you're unfortunately gonna have to wait till at least next May to do so, when it's supposedly getting a release here in the states (likely in limited theatres and then soon thereafter on DVD). My advice? Go region free and pick up the UK DVD, so you can see it before then. It's worth seeking out.