I hate feeling like I’ve somehow missed something when I’m finished watching a movie and these seemingly meaningless questions linger in my head. MOTHER’S DAY is the most recent culprit not once but twice- the one plaguing me the most has to do with the title. MOTHER’S DAY does indeed have a mother and the events take place over the course of a day, but it doesn’t- to my knowledge- have any connection to the universally recognized holiday. Does it hint that the mother owns the day? I digress; the title of the film really isn’t the point because Darren Lynn Bousman’s MOTHER’S DAY is a decent if somewhat forgettable home invasion thriller.
In MOTHER’S DAY a couple decide to host a party at the same time inclement weather threatens to produce a massive tornado. The couple then finds themselves at the mercy of three men on the run from the law that break in to the couple’s recently acquired house because they last knew it to be the house their mother (Rebecca De Mornay) owned. The three fugitives hold the couple and their guests hostage and when their mother shows up to attempt to clean up the mess her sons have created and to reclaim money that she believes has been being sent to her even after the house had been foreclosed.
The second lingering question that doesn’t really affect my overall feelings is why such a big deal was made of the impending tornado? It couldn’t just be a stormy night? I ask only because- Spoiler Alert: there is no tornado. Again though, not really a spoiler because it has absolutely nothing to do with the overall events of the film- it does however create an interesting dynamic and conflict for the characters to deal with throughout. I do wish though that they had done a little more with that plot element though, because it does add a little extra danger into the proceedings and essentially it just becomes little more than a minor nuisance.
The three main fugitives have three unique personalities- ones been shot and is in severe pain and whined throughout, one is a degenerate and borderline psychotic and the third is somewhat levelheaded until pushed and then he turns into a borderline psychotic. Once Mother shows up though they all quiver with fear at her presence, which teased that she’s some kind of overwhelming evil force- which I don’t feel is ever really backed up. To be fair De Mornay has moments of brilliance and has a creepy calmness to her, but overall the performances from the villains ranges from decent to way over-the-top. Cheesy performances in a cheesy movie can make for a delightfully fun watch- the problem though is that Bousman’s MOTHER’S DAY takes this material darkly serious.
Bousman is a veteran if the SAW franchise so the gore and violence is all done very well and the brutality makes the home invasion aspect of the film extremely tense- the score aids in that department as well. The more irritating thing about the film though is a reliance on twists that feel manipulative to an unnecessary extent. The main twist tries to tug at the heartstrings to make you feel pity for the characters and at that point pity wasn’t really an option for a group of characters that really couldn’t meet their maker fast enough.
The performances for the most part are decent. Shawn Ashmore appears as one of the hostages at the party and a doctor, but seems way too young to even be friends with this group of people. Frank Grillo, who I loved recently in THE GREY, seemed a bit weak here, though he does have a couple good scenes. De Mornay is obviously the star and she’s decent, but there really isn’t anything special or memorable about her performance or anyone else’s.
Subtract some of the well paced tension from the final act of MOTHER’S DAY and a few select moments of character work then what you’d have here is an average and instantly forgettable thriller. As it is, while a far cry from anything original and unforgettable, it is still a well shot and tense home invasion flick. I couldn’t help but feel that Bousman at some point put his direction on auto-pilot and coaster through several stretches while his hand felt extremely present during the film’s more tense moments and more violent shots. MOTHER’S DAY is a remake that’s better than most, but a bit too unfocused and average at times for it to ever be labeled as a classic. It is however a classic case of a film that’s easily consumed, easy to recommend to genre buffs and stuffed in the back of the memory bank for a rainy day.