The studio that brought you ‘Toxie’ tackled slasher revenge horror in the early 80s, giving us the banned cult classic treat “Mother’s Day”.
If you’re a fan of Troma Entertainment, North America’s longest-running independent film studio, you are probably very familiar with their best-known cult classics like The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo and Juliet, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and Surf Nazis Must Die.
Troma has made a name for itself by creating unique, wonderfully weird films for very little money but lots of creativity. Most of their films are silly, fun, often ridiculously over-the-top comedic romps.
But one Troma-produced film, the brainchild of Troma found Lloyd Kaufman’s brother Charles, Mother’s Day is a dark and nasty exploitation film that represents a significant departure for the studio in its early days.
Mother’s Day is a 1980 American rape and revenge slasher film directed, co-written, and produced by Charles Kaufman (Lloyd Kaufman acted as an associate producer of the film).
Containing elements of satire, thriller, and slasher genres, it faced backlash upon its release for its depiction of violence and rape, resulting in its financial failure.
Now, however, it has become a cult classic and has even received critical reassessment for its surprisingly smart subtextual commentary on consumerism, pop culture, and motherhood.
Mother’s Day follows three close friends, Abbey, Jackie, and Trina, who are taking their annual girl’s trip — a tradition since they graduated college together three years prior.
This year’s trip involves camping in the woods, where the friends smoke some weed and share some laughs. Unfortunately for them, their camping site is in close proximity to a lovely secluded home where a demented mother lives with her two insane, inbred sons.
What could possibly go wrong? You guessed it: everything.
Within the first few minutes of pressing play, you are introduced to a couple at a seminar. They strike up a conversation with a sweet old lady sporting a neck brace.
(Fun fact: the young actress here looks very much like Lady Gaga.)
Feeling no fear at all, the couple hitches a ride from the lady, only to end up in the middle of the woods, where they meet their untimely demise at the hands of the lady’s bloodthirsty sons.
It’s here we are introduced to the gore and sexual threat the film has in store for us.
Though it came out in 1980, Mother’s Day feels very much like a 70s grindhouse film.
The fashion is obviously crossing over to the 1980s, though it hasn’t yet reached the later hair metal looks of films like Return of the Living Dead.
The music is weirdly upbeat for such a nasty little film. Despite being a Troma production, this has elements of a film like I Spit On Your Grave, and it’s not too hard to see why the film was banned in the UK. Of course, most of us have been traumatized to a much greater extent in the years that followed this film’s release, so it will likely feel tame to you these days.
Now for the fun part. Let’s talk about the gore and special FX.
Okay, so it was the ’80s, and the practical FX wasn’t great by technical standards. But it’s really watchable, and they don’t hold back.
Remember I told you about the couple at the beginning of the film? Well, the guy gets decapitated. You can clearly see it’s a dummy when they hack at his head, but that won’t make you enjoy it any less. The blood looks like it’s probably red paint. That’s the level of FX we’re talking about.
You’ll need to forgive a lot to get the most out of your viewing, but please don’t let that stop you.
This is the kind of hidden genre gem that really sticks with you.
The mother is absolutely crazy, and her boys have some really disturbing scenes.
However, it’s the three young ladies who stole the show for me.
I love that they aren’t stereotypical victims. Rather than being clueless or annoying, they are actual badasses. Yes, there are times when you scratch your head and wonder what the hell is going on, but that’s honestly just part of the charm.
Mother’s Day was released by Troma on DVD for the first time on Halloween in 2000, so now is a great time to check it out, now streaming on Shudder.
The film was even (loosely) remade in 2010 by Saw veteran Darren Lynn Bousman, and that’s another twisted little film worth seeing with a chilling performance by Rebecca De Mornay. Both Charles and Lloyd Kaufman have cameos in the film.