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A Mother’s Day Retrospective

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Mother's Day

The late 1970’s and early 1980’s ushered in the golden era of slasher films. In the early 80’s, the formula for a hit horror movie was to take the premise of Halloween and implement it into your own unique setting. 1980 alone gave us Friday the 13th (and many others) taking place at summer camp, Prom Night; a school dance, and Terror Train; you guessed it, on a train.

But 1980 also saw the release of one of the most unique slasher films. Mother’s Day, though not for everyone, is one of the true bright spots from the slasher golden era. It’s difficult to even categorize it in the slasher subgenre because of how different it was from others being made at the time. If you were to pitch it to a movie studio you’d call it “Last House on the Left meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Quite the combination.

The premise is simple. We have three former college roommates (Abbey, Jackie, and Trina) going on a camping trip 10 years after graduation. We’re shown brief scenes of each of them living out their different lives, including a pool party scene taking place in Beverly Hills that I’m almost certain Paul Thomas Anderson referenced when making Boogie Nights (roller blades and all). While on their trip they are stalked and kidnapped by 2 backwoods maniacs (Ike and Addley). Ike and Addley take the trio back to their house in the woods to show “Mother.” In a series of events that are not for the faint of heart, the maniac son’s brutally torture the trio, trying to garner praise from Mother.

This could very well be (and has been) written off as a cheap exploitation movie. Roger Ebert famously gave it zero stars in his scathing review. While Mother’s Day does suffer some of the setbacks that a low-budget film typically endures, there’s also plenty of merit to be had. Some of that merit is found in director Charles Kaufman’s play on pop culture. Littered throughout the maniac’s house is an excessive amount of pop culture items. We see Sesame Street clocks, Trix cereal boxes, and a Raggedy Anne doll, just to name a few. When Mother is not watching her boys rape and torture, she’s watching whatever junk is on the nearest television. We even get an entire training montage of Ike and Addley doing their best Rocky Balboa impression. Whether Kaufman was making a correlation to the amount of pop culture one consumes and their mental health is up for the viewer to decide.

Another element that makes Mother’s Day stand out is its call backs and payoffs to what we saw earlier in the film. The opening credits is a great scene where our protagonists go through a photo album of their days as college roommates. During this scene there is mention of lowering a sleeping bag out their dorm room window, occupied by one of them, to sneak out late at night. This reference would be a throwaway in a lesser script but here it is paid off when the girls use the same exact tactic to escape from the second floor of Mother’s shack.

Mostly ignored in slasher movies before and after Mother’s Day are compelling character traits. Other than the obvious stereotypes like jock, hot girl, and nerd, we typically do not see much character development in a slasher. Mother’s Day is one of the few slashers to break from this mold. Through some early exposition and a flashback where she’s saved from a horrible date, we’re shown that Jackie is always being taken care of and looked out for by Abbey and Trina. When Jackie is taken away by Ike and Addley to have extra brutality inflicted on her, it is up to Abbey and Trina to save her once again. Although they make a valiant effort, it is to no avail as Jackie dies from her injuries. In the movie’s most emotional moment, we’re shown Abbey and Trina taking care of Jackie’s corpse before going out to extract their revenge on Mother and her boys.

Mother’s Day has become a cult classic among horror fans for its unique premise, satirical look at pop culture, and dark humor. Even if you’re not a fan of its disturbing content, there’s quality found in its screenplay and direction. It is an incredibly ugly film but if you’re willing to look past that, you’ll also find a surprisingly smart one.

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Video: The Shape of Water Q&A with Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre

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This past weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA betwixt a double screening of The Shape of Water and the classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the former’s director Guillermo del Toro (and star Doug Jones) sat down to discuss the latter’s influence on the film, Gill-man sex, “one sock movies,” his career in the genre, and more with moderator Jonah Ray, and we were there to film a portion of it.

Our sincere thanks to American Cinematheque general manager Dennis Bartok for extending the invitation.

For more Cinematheque screenings, visit the official website here.

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Michael C. Hall Buried in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary

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Now here’s an audio book we can REALLY get behind! Entertainment Weekly is reporting that former “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall will be narrating the first ever unabridged recording of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Sometime’s audio is better!

Readers have been asking for this audiobook for a very long time,” Stephen King said in a statement. “I know the listening experience will be worth the wait with Michael as narrator.

We’re thrilled to finally bring Pet Sematary to King’s audiobook fans,” Simon & Schuster Audio president and publisher Chris Lynch added. “Michael C. Hall is a perfect match for this timeless story, which has long deserved an unabridged production.

The unabridged audiobook of Pet Sematary will be released by Simon & Schuster Audio on March 27. Speaking of Hall… you know he would make a pretty friggin’ good casting choice to play Victor Pascow in the upcoming Pet Sematary remake. Just sayin’.

BUY IT NOW!

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Saw-inspired Game Play With Me Sets a Trap on Steam

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Saw fans have a lot to be happy about right now. In addition to Jigsaw being teased for Dead by Daylight, a new Saw-themed game called Play With Me has launched on Steam, and although it’s not officially connected with the franchise in any way, developer Airem promised that they created a videogame which looks and plays as though it were made by Jigsaw himself. As you can tell from the trailer and screenshots, the production values and overall quality of Play With Me appear to be considerably higher than most other indie horror games released on Steam, and you’ll probably be very happy to see that Airem took the time and effort to create stylized hand drawn environments rather than using purchased assets from the Unity Store.

The killer behind the sinister traps in Play With Me is known as the Illusion, with the player taking control of investigative journalist Robert Hawk as he tries to fight his way through a series of sick and twisted obstacles created by the lunatic. The voice acting in the trailer was a little cheesy, although we see at 1:09 that the player will be tasked with using a kitchen knife to cut open a dead body (presumably to retrieve an item hidden in the cadaver’s stomach), which is not an image you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.

IQ Publishing are offering a 15% discount off Play With Me for those who purchase the game before January 24, so Saw fans might want to mark that deadline in their calendars and purchase it from Steam before the time is up. After all, it can’t be worse than Konami’s awful official Saw videogames.

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