In 1979, two horror movies began filming less than 15 miles away from each other: “Friday the 13th” and “Mother’s Day.” One, of course, went on to live in infamy while the other was seldom seen. Both were extraordinarily stark films for their time, and both are pretty much equal in style, theme and delivery. “Mother’s Day,” however, has a unique pedigree: It was directed by Charles Kaufman – brother of Lloyd Kaufman who just happens to be the co-founder and President of the mighty Troma.
The difference between “Mother’s Day” and other Troma releases is that “Mother’s Day” is not meant to be a comedy or a satire. It has a bit of humor, but its usage is more disturbing than funny.
“Mother’s Day” is the ‘story’ (and I use that term lightly) of two redneck hillbilly inbreds and their stern, manipulatin’ mamma. She loves her boys, especially when they’re tormentin’ and choppin’ up travelers. Why does she make them do it? Who the hell knows? The point, much like in “Friday the 13th”, is the randomness and insanity of it all. When three old friends – and don’cha just know they’re all gonna be women in a flick like this – who take an annual vacation together decide to take this year’s trip up in Mamma Country, well put the pig on the spit and find the fiddle and washboard player, ‘cause the fun’s gonna begin.
With the exception of an initial beheading (in a scene that “Wrong Turn” could very well have been influenced by), the gore is exceptionally realistic for the period. I even winced a couple of times, including once at a painful-looking hand wound. What sets “Mother’s Day” further out from the rest of the pack is the unusual characterization of each of the women. Each one gets a scene that sets up her background as she prepares for the trip.
Additionally, the redneck brothers are creepy and mostly well acted. They get a bit hammy at times, but there are other times when they’re completely believable, although this Fambly O’ Bubbas never approaches the level of realism that the Fambly in the aforementioned “Wrong Turn” had. There is also a completely gratuitous scene involving the three young women (two in undies and one nekkid) splashing around in a lake; it was probably pretty racy back in the day, but now seems kinda silly. It doesn’t help any that the print is a bit washed out; I’ll take my nips crisp, not fuzzy, thank you.
Overall, “Mother’s Day” is a surprisingly solid effort from a company better known for its over-the-top, cheesy, satirical gorefests. At the very least, it’s an interesting look at what might have been if they had decided to stick with “serious” scripts; at best it deserves an honorable mention as a fresh attempt, along with “Friday the 13th”, to revive a genre that was already thought to be dead.
Interesting Bit of Trivia: Co-writer Warren Leight did very little work (and nothing of mainstream value) for the next two decades, when he suddenly became a writer and producer for “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” That means there’s hope for all of us.
Pros: Scenes involving rape and torture are not as exploitative as some have made them out to be. Faded print adds to that Old School Horror Goodness.
Cons: Abrupt ending, Bubbas go a bit too Shatner sometimes.
Review Rating: 3 out of 5 Deaths by Plastic Boobies.
“Mother’s Day” (1980)
90 Minutes; USA
Rated R for gore, a scene of rape and language.
Nancy Hendrickson (Abbey)
Deborah Luce (Jackie)
Tiana Pierce (Trina)
Holden McGuire (Ike)
Billy Ray McQuade (Addley)
Rose Ross (Mother)
Directed by: Charles Kaufman
Viewing Format: VHS
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)