Crash Analysis: MOTHER’S DAY (2010)

Ma Parker and her boys – but worse 

Criminal brothers crash a party with deadly results

There’s a lot of hype about this movie, and no, it doesn’t live up to it. For all you wishing and hoping MOTHER’S DAY fanatics, this will never receive widespread release since the DVD premiered in 2011 after the movie appeared in several festivals. However, it did find limited release in the United States in 2012. So stop the begging and pleading. It’s over.

Loosely based on the truly horrific “Wichita Massacre”, in which the Carr brothers invaded a home and ultimately brutalized and murdered two women and three men, MOTHER’S DAY brings us torture porn on a TV dinner tray. Granted, there’s suspense and tension, but the key problem is that one can’t buy the plot, and the worst: We’ve seen it all before.

Rebecca De Mornay plays Mother Koffin (yes, a hokey surname for such a tale), a woman who has raised her three sons and daughter to serve like grunts in the North Korean army. Her word is law and she is the one and only matriarch above and beyond all things. So, when her three sons fuck up a bank job and enter what used to be their childhood home with a wounded brother, they find the Sohapi family (another utterly ludicrous surname) and their friends. When momma and her family are together in the house, they collectively torture and brutalize to extract money to make their escape across the border.

The movie is cold, nasty, bloody and brutal, with wonderful effects by Allen Benjamin and company, and equally impressive cinematography by Joseph White. The acting is also solid throughout, from De Mornay and Jaime King on down, but even in such a movie, if the story doesn’t ring true, the acting can’t save the story. Regardless, the overused phrase of “tour de force” has come into play when discussing De Mornay’s performance. Yes, she was fantastic, but this is not one of those amazing performances for the ages – though it’s hard to get over the fact she’s now perfect to play Hillary Clinton in a bio-pic.

Story-wise, the movie is sorely lacking, and having an excessive amount of characters certainly doesn’t help (five Koffins and eight Sohapis and friends). Too many major players means everyone needs some screen time. This conundrum leads to shallow characters that many cannot connect with leaving the audience with an emotional void. From there, torture works on a base level and doesn’t draw the viewer in as deeply as it should. Instead of truly feeling for the character suffering on screen, more often than not, we only imagine ourselves suffering at the hands of a crazed family.

This is also one of those movies where you have characters not following through – on killing for instance. And we’ve seen it before in many a movie where a victim fails to finish off their attacker. This movie is no different. Time and time again, victims have the opportunity to take out the Koffins, and they always stop short in making certain their adversary is dead, which, of course, leads to more complications and consequences. Furthermore, when the victims do get the best of one of the criminals, the scene becomes comical since this is another tale where nail gun safety features are completely overlooked. And the “punch” after the climax, is all but predictable.

This is where director Darren Lynn Bousman’s SAW series influence comes into play, as he directed the second, third and fourth installments (with the second being the best of the series). He couldn’t shrug those SAW-like demons that left the series on the edge of campiness instead of true torture porn hell. Bousman and MOTHER’S DAY screenwriter Scott Milam, have joined forces for NINETY, which should be released sometime in 2013.

Finally, we’ve heard of lunatic families indulging in their own communal life of crime, but momma and her kids are something else. Granted, two of her sons are bonkers, but one, Ike (Patrick John Flueger) is well spoken and can analyze as well as keep himself in check. Hell, he can even reason as if he hasn’t lived in a bubble all his life – which he has. And since Mother Koffin uses heavy threats and punishment to keep her family in line, one would expect the four siblings to be far more emotionally unstable. This does not, however, detract from Flueger’s compelling performance.

Due to the shallowness of character and the fantastical nature of the family and story, the “disturbance factor” only goes so far. Most do for films of this ilk where one places bets on who lives and who dies between bites of popcorn. For some truly disturbing cinema, see my recommendations under the A SERBIAN FILM review. Regardless, I only hope to see more of De Mornay in anything, as well as King and Flueger. As for Bousman, I hope he makes the action/thriller NINETY with a serious game face instead of a smarmy, wry smile.

2 out of 5 stars

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