One of the early cinematic abominations to pour forth from the filthy minds at Troma Films, “Mother’s Day” is a lot like most exploitation epics of the era—nasty, brutish and with a dash of slapstick comedy thrown in to make all the rape and murder a little more palatable. Director Charles Kaufman (brother of Lloyd, Troma’s head honcho) claims “Mother’s Day” is a satire, but what, exactly, it’s satirizing is cloudy at best. Despite the goofy humor and liberal use of faux hillbilly teeth, “Mother’s Day” is a decent exploitation flick, one that’s made all the creepier by the twisted matriarchal angle.
The matriarch in question, played by Rose Ross (actually, actress Beatrice Pons, using a pseudonym), lives in the backwoods of New Jersey with her two grown boys, Ike and Addley (played by Holden McGuire and Billy Ray McQuade, both of whom—you guessed it—used a pseudonym). They live in a rickety old house littered with trash, broken toys, muscle magazines and graffiti (typical example: “Ike + Addley + Mom”)—sort of like the house in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” if it were filled with retarded man-children instead of cannibals. It’s a normal household, except for the times when mom lures unsuspecting city folk into the woods and allows her sons to mutilate and violate foolish city slickers to their hearts’ content.
Stumbling into this dysfunctional mix are Abbey, Jackie and Trina, a trio of former college roommates who get together each year for a camping trip. They’re city girls through and through—Abbey lives in L.A. and hosts some kick-ass coke-fueled parties at her mansion, while Jackie and Trina live in Manhattan. The girls are inveterate pranksters, and during their trek through the forests of the Garden State, proceed to scare each other by hiding in bushes, pulling out fake knives and sneaking up on each other. This provides plenty of obvious jumpscares and perfectly sets up the movie’s turn, when Ike and Addley bust out of the woods and kidnap the girls.
Here’s where “Mother’s Day” gets both goofy and gruesome, usually at the same time. Ike and Addley force Jackie to dress up like Shirley Temple and act out a twisted fantasy before raping her—all while Mother looks on and offers critiques of the performance. Not very pleasant, but it’s soon followed by a training montage (it wouldn’t be an ’80s movie without a montage) in which the boys cheerfully do one-armed push-ups and practice their punching and murdering skills. The family even eats breakfast together, and Mother encourages her sons to eat their Cheeze-Whiz because it’s “good for the liver.” Her heart’s in the right place, even if she does encourage axe-murdering and whatnot. There’s even a running gag about Mother’s mutant sister, Queenie, a joke that winds up being the punch line of the movie.
Kaufman works some attempts at character development and pathos in, too, but they’re just as dodgy and ill-mannered as the Jersey hick freaks that populate the movie. One of the girls calls Ike and Addley sick perverted hillbillies, and the brothers rear back, appalled that city folk would disparage their simple ways. Without spoiling too much, one of the girls doesn’t make it and during a short memorial service, her two friends talk about how she was “always shit on in life” before propping her corpse up on a tree so she can watch the subsequent revenge the girls exact on Mother and her sons. Now that’s what I call a wake!
“Hostel” director Eli Roth is reportedly a huge fan of “Mother’s Day,” and it’s not hard to see why—the roots of Roth’s brand of torture porn lie squarely in the exploitation flicks of the 70s and 80s. But for all the shoddy dialogue and bad satire, “Mother’s Day” at least feels sincere in its attempts, which is more than can be said for the films of Roth and his ilk. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, “Mother’s Day” is a stirring reminder that, no matter what, mom always has your best interests at heart, even when she’s doling out rape tips.