Ah, the early 1980s. A time when the then-burgeoning slasher craze was about to take over, though audiences were never quite prepared for the regional nastiness that pervades in Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day. This early Troma production was panned by critics, including Roger Ebert who famously derided the film for being vile and sick. And now, Vinegar Syndrome has upgraded this perverse film to 4K Ultra HD with a two-disc release that pulls out all the stops for this genre classic. If you want to see the film the best it has ever looked, then pick up this Highly Recommended release!
Alright, a small word to preface my review: Mother’s Day is sleazy, demented, and disgusting in all of the ways Roger Ebert criticized it. But to this viewer, Charles Kaufman’s constant product placement, sneakily perverse humor, and genuinely good compositions really make for a queasy, but rewarding time. To Kaufman, everything that happens in the film is somehow connected to his worldview of pop culture and the broken family dynamics that come with the end of the Reagan era. It all coalesces into something shocking, the likes of which I trace back to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Not many horror filmmakers understand the humor that’s found in poking at America’s failed social institutions, one of them being the nuclear family.
Mother’s Day follows Jackie (Deborah Luce), Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson) and Trina (Tiana Pierce), three former college roommates who plan a weekend getaway every year to reconnect. It was Jackie’s turn to choose the destination, thus the trio are off to camp at New Jersey’s Deep Barons for the weekend. Despite being warned by an ominous shopkeeper, the trio runs around the woods for fun, ending up skinny dipping at one point. But little do they know, they’re being watched. Ike (Gary Pollard) and Addley (Michael McCleery), a pair of sadistic brothers who live nearby, attack the trio and drag them back to their dilapidated house to meet Mother (Beatrice Pons). Mother, though, may well be the most sadistic one of them all…
All of the various swipes at consumerism that Charles Kaufman takes can definitely feel obnoxious, though I mark that up to his approach. Kaufman knows what he’s making is sick and twisted, designed to repel people. It’s just those who don’t take that repellent at face value he’d like to entertain. Ike and Addley are ciphers for failed parenting, broken people incapable of looking at life outside of the twisted upbringing Mother brought them into. And to supplant all that mild humor, Kaufman commits to the violence and makes it as queasy and shocking as possible. This has much more in common with the mean-spirited genre films of the ‘70s rather than the ‘80s, but its place in history earmarks it as a key entry in the slasher craze, while not wholly belonging to it.
The violence in Mother’s Day is blunt and grim. Once the film arrives at the rape-revenge portion, it’s not that you’re rooting for the women to win, but you’re so beaten down by everything that you just want the nightmare to end. If people deride normal slashers for being too hokey and without gumption, then Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day is the arsenic disguised as the antidote. Whether you’re on board or not is up to you.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
“I’m a sick woman!” Mother’s Day stabs the day away with a two-disc (4K and Blu-ray) release that comes housed in a standard black 4K Blu-ray case. Both discs (BD66 for the UHD and BD50 for the standard Blu-ray) rest in the case, plus it comes with a limited-edition slipcover showcasing art by Robert Sammelin and reversible sleeve artwork. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, set up audio, explore bonus features, and select reels.
Mother’s Day makes the jump to 4K Ultra HD with an HEVC-encoded 2160p presentation from Vinegar Syndrome. This new transfer is sourced from a 4K restoration of the original 35mm camera negative, and the results are nothing short of beautiful. This grain-filled regional horror flick has never looked better, with enhanced black levels and contrast over previous transfers. This low-budget production should probably never look this good, but I was a bit gobsmacked by the depth of field attained in the nighttime scenes, of which there are many. The encode handles the low lighting perfectly and the source looks to be in very good condition. I saw some nicks and bumps in the source, but nothing overwhelming to note. The HDR layer benefits those nighttime sequences greatly, and all the exteriors shot in the beginning look so much better than previous transfers thanks to the enhanced contrast. This is a stunning presentation through and through.
For those who purchased the Anchor Bay Blu-ray, then you know just how terrible the audio sounded there, but Vinegar Syndrome presents the original English mono track in the DTS-HD MA codec that’s far and away the best the film has ever sounded. The few discrete sound effects and bass levels are finally showcased well, plus the eerie score is balanced well with the dialogue. This track may not have the most dynamic range because of its low budget, but what we get sounds very, very good here. Source looks to be in good condition, with little-to-no hiss to note throughout.
Vinegar Syndrome has truly stacked this 4K release of Mother’s Day with newly produced and archival supplements that you’ll have to set aside a whole day to dig into. Interviews with original cast and crew are terrific, especially the one with actress Nancy Hendrickson and her recounting of how she was paid for the film and the many different unique things they did during shooting to pull off the violent effects. I was even surprised to hear that there was a somewhat-lengthy rehearsal process, though it probably wouldn’t be as surprising if most of Troma’s releases cared that much about the story. If you want to hear directly from the people involved with the production, including hours upon hours of stories about the film’s history, this release delivers in spades. I cannot praise this supplements package enough, with all of the well-produced interviews and featurettes to enjoy.
Disc 1: 4K UHD Feature
Disc 2: Blu-ray Feature & Supplements
Mother is disappointed in you. It’s time to make it up to her by picking up this new 4K Blu-ray release of Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day from Vinegar Syndrome. This early-‘80s horror film has been restored to perfection from the original negative and given an exhaustive list of extras for fans to enjoy. This release comes Highly Recommended!
Order your copy of Mother's Day on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray