In a special tribute to “Mother” in the broadest sense, we’re bringing you two reviews today uniquely suited to Mom’s Day.
Let’s start with another review from the world of dark cinema.
With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )
FILM :: MOTHER’S DAY
YEAR :: 1980
DIRECTOR :: Charles Kaufman
Ahhhhhh, Troma. The bizarre, the sensational, the “beyond the pale.” Always with Troma. This film is a textbook example of what the studio was best known for.
In many ways, “Mother’s Day” is a classic. Certainly, it’s an unforgettable ride. It tries to carry forward the schlocky fun of so many of the grindcore classics of the period, especially from the studio that brought you “The Toxic Avenger,” and on some level it succeeds in doing that. There are guilty laughs here. Overall, there is a strong sense of the ridiculous to the piece as a whole.
I mean, when the titular character, “Mother” is suffocated with an inflatable pair of fake boobs during the final “boss fight,” it’s hard not to think of this as a comedy of sorts.
That’s where the film succeeds, without question.
However, I honestly can’t think of the last comedy I watched where abduction, torture and rape were central to the plot. All of that is here in spades along with the ridiculous camp. This is the tough thing with “Mother’s Day” when fed through modern sensibilities. Grindcore just isn’t very often played for comedy anymore.
That’s where the film will run aground in the eyes of many.
So, where to net out on this film?
Personally, I have a soft spot for this type of fare. “Mother’s Day” and films like it, were what I cut my teeth on as I delved into more “adult” horror cinema as a young teen. There was something undeniably taboo about this strain of film and magnetic accordingly. I think it is that frame of mind that I can drift back into today when watching “Mother’s Day.” For that reason, I have to give it props.
Conversely. The film’s subject matter does have to take it down a peg or two. For the uninitiated, this would be a bit of an endurance test.
If you’re up for what Troma typically has to offer, this can be something quite fun. Bizzarre, grim and challenging, but fun. If you’re new to the studio or the style, I wouldn’t suggest starting here. Try “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” instead.
RATING ………………. 3.5 STARS
OK… This one’s a tough one. It’s funny to review this with “Mother’s Day,” as they do share some elements. What “Kin” does not share with “Mother’s Day,” however, is any sense of fun. This book is a blunt instrument, speckled with blood and crawling with maggots.
Here is how the publisher describes the story ::
On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers — a family of cannibalistic lunatics — are closing in… A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood… In snowbound Detroit, a waitress trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back on the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun… And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance… a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers… It’s time to return to Elkwood.
This description only provides the barest HINTS at the twisted craziness that is “Kin.” As someone who spends a LOT of time in this space, even I have to say “Holy crap, this one’s relentless.” NOT for the faint of heart.
The good :: Burke does create some images that sear into the brain. One in particular was nothing short of heart-stopping. I won’t put any sort of spoiler in this review, but it was truly a skin-crawling image and concept that has remained with me since I read it (that involves a mom). Kudos on that. On that front, the book offers some inventive stuff with a solid turn of phrase. This is the best part of “Kin.” Again, very challenging material, but unforgettable.
That’s really where the novel’s true wins stop, however. Beyond those select few chilling images and set pieces, the novel is a pastiche of things we have seen before.
I was immediately reminded of the notable X-Files episode “Home.” Here is a collection of scenes from the show ::
There ARE differences. Sure. But the similarities are SO numerous that it’s tough to think there wasn’t some pretty darn siginifant influence here. And there are many other pieces “out there” that act as direct parents to this novel. That was a shame, because it cheapened the book.
The other MAJOR issue I had with the book itself was the ending. I did like aspects of the final fight at the climax of “Kin,” but the neat, shiny bow placed on the dovetailing storylines as the novel comes to an end is… At best… Unrealistic… At worst… Just plain ridiculous. Honestly, it was one of the least plausible endings I have read in a very long time. It really felt as if Burke just got tired of writing and tried to end it all quickly, giving us something sweet to chase away all of the stomach-churning images he had created thus far.
I’m giving this one the same sort of treatment I did the film above. If you’re ready for something NUTS that will leave you with creative-but-indelible images of horror, this is something to explore. But this one is really only suited for the most hardened fans of horror and they should read it for those images, those set pieces that Burke creates. Beyond that, “Kin” unfortunately charts little new territory.
RATING ………………. 2.5 STARS