By Kristin Battestella
These moms and grans be they retro or recent turn to the ax and knife or kidnappings and other horrors to show their undying, demented love.
Funeral Home – A teen helps turn her grandmother's mortuary into a bed and breakfast in this 1980 Canadian spooky with eerie silhouettes, broken down trucks, and black cats on the bridge. The country quaint seems pleasant – a fine manor, mom's old room with dolls, floral wallpaper, and nostalgia – but the family must let out the home to keep it since our undertaker grandfather apparently abandoned the parlor several years prior. A not very bright handyman, bumbling police, and a car owned by a reported missing realtor create suspicion among the cows, hay bales, and hick farmers as more snobby guests and hillbilly suspects populate the house. Stormy nights, hissing cats, and voyeurs at the window pane have everyone on edge amid downstairs whispers and a basement full of unused coffins and hidden rooms. Kooky old ladies, spooky barns, a disused Hearst, and mysterious necklaces invoke more mood as the gothic interiors and funeral home décor lingers – the slumber room, organs, artificial flower arraignments. The introductions happen quickly, but the mystery sags until skimpy swimming, saucy goading, night time cruising, quarry cliffs, and vehicular disasters. Grandma won't have anyone immoral or sinful staying at her house, but no one takes the hometown cop seriously amid the eavesdropping, gossip, and guest fatalities. Gross jars, cobwebs, and cemeteries set off freaky child funeral flashbacks with memories of kids locked in with the dead bodies by her nasty embalmer husband. Forbidden areas and talk of the undertaker actually running off with another woman lead to flashlights, bludgeonings, and dumping the victim inside another freshly dug plot. More red herrings, plastic sheeting, and violence rush to the final basement surprise, which, though derivative, remains sad and disturbing. Although the pace is uneven and the poor VHS print is difficult to see thanks to some rough day for night coloring and dark photography, this is fun and atmospheric for a late night marathon.
Serial Mom – Kathleen Turner (War of the Roses) stars in writer and director John Waters' (Hairspray) 1994 Susie Homemaker satire with based on a true story winks, angelic credits, birds chirping, and an idyllic kitchen where fruit salad is the snack of choice. Chewing gum is obscene compared to the fifties-esque golly gee with a dentist husband, a son named Chip, and a daughter in college who enjoys swap meets. Mom's holding the cereal in product placement position but a fly in the butter, its bloody splat, and the tightly wound sadistic contrast the breakfast perfection, floral wallpaper, sunshine, sewing baskets, and PTA fruitcakes. Retro button up styles, Betty Page saucy, and older Victorian décor add to the eighties nostalgia with gear shifts on the steering column, corded telephones, cassettes, VHS, vintage porn, and a Joan Rivers talk show on the big boob tube. 9:37 a.m. and it's time for foul mouthed split screen prank calls to the local parking spot stealing divorcee before gruesome accidents running over a school teacher complete with an innocent music montage and a trip to the car wash. After baking cookies, prayers, and tame pillow talk, there's newfound moaning excitement, but dental emergencies and ruined bird watching plans lead to spying with binoculars and killer scissors impalements intercut with teen masturbation. Nosy detectives, a filthy neighbor who doesn't recycle and thus contributes to the annual deficit, and drinking with the trash men to gain their allegiance layer the parodies on family, generational clashes, films being a bad influence, and life's little naughtiness. Eating sweets against doctor's orders, changing the price tags at the market, selling overpriced damaged goods, bathroom graffiti, glory holes, stabbing a philander with a fire poker and getting his liver stuck on the end – where's the line between innocent slights and a fatal bludgeoning with a burned rack of lamb? Our classy lady isn't exactly good at covering her tracks, leaving bloody weapons, fingerprints, and witnesses on top of her killer scrapbook under the mattress. Grace before dinner and pearls for church begat killing an old lady watching Annie just because she didn't rewind, and singing along during station wagon chases anchor debates on whether the Mrs. needs a lawyer or an agent. The slighted causes, pursued victims, and twisted kills are filmed with horror suspense, yet there's a certain bemusing to the no wearing white shoes after Labor Day sinister, a sensational, celebrity likability. It's a razzle dazzle trial like Chicago says – our daughter is selling t-shirts at the court house, Chip sold the TV movie rights to Suzanne Summers, the cheering crowd admits they'd like to kill a few people themselves, and, well, Patty Hearst is one of the jurors. The dark wit, social exposés, and cheeky performances here take multiple viewings, and the humorously horrible satire remains relevant in reflecting our love of making true crime famous.
Amityville: The Awakening – Single mom Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female) moves her three kids to 112 Ocean Avenue in this 2017 release co-starring Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show) and Bella Thorne (Big Love). Contemporary hip music and a driving montage lead to the creepy abode with old furniture, creaking floorboards, a barking family dog, and a complaining emo teen. Her comatose twin brother is bound to a medical bed complete with hospital equipment, beeping monitors, injections, and life supporting tubes, but mom refuses to accept his vegetative state despite medical gear failures, distorted pulse rates, and a contorted, irrevocably twisted body. 1974 newspapers summarize the DeFeo murders, however the family has supposedly moved to the infamous home unaware – an unrealistic premise when there are literally twenty Amityville movies – and the focus here should be on the mother's will do anything dilemma rather than the of the moment teen cool, cheeky panties, and new friends who are essentially Amityville fans. When did every kid in school become goth? How was she not Zillow studying their new address before the move? Why does nobody have a cellphone? The first twenty minutes about people who don't know they are in a horror movie learning of the setting's real world horror is too disjointed, and the attempted meta borders on parody as those school kids provide the original DVD, explain the prequel follow up, and nix the remake before begging to watch The Amityville Horror in the very house at 3:15 a.m. – and yes, James Brolin makes an appearance on their big screen television. Windows opening by themselves, swarming flies, double take shadows, reflections, and peeling wallpaper with something bloody underneath build better simmer, but dream scare fake outs hurt the flickering power and silent door creeping because the plot is so within within the lore that the audience can predict all the contrivances. Rather than fully utilizing the more interesting mother, the misplaced chasing of the mainstream teen element backfires with watered down horror compromising what could be seriously good body twistedness, technological possessions, and medicine meets ouija board. It's chilling when a man's voice tells the little girl to come closer, but the viewer can't stay on edge amid some kind of brother defending against an ex posting nude pictures impetus and “Belle” Thorne doing little more than playing herself. Characters themselves say the magic circle tropes, bible quotes, and forty year anniversaries are stupid, and the hot sister angst is unnecessarily placed above the vegetative son in fear and their deluded mother. This was originally filmed in 2014, and behind the scenes turmoil, delayed releases, and probable bumfuck Harvey ass interference shows thanks to poor CGI late, PG-13 cutaways to the famous facade, and finale cheating with a wrap up newsreel. While the creaking contortions, red room healings, and shotgun horrors are watchable compared to other umpteenth Amityville movies, one has to have few expectations here, for this ultimately falls back on its franchise safety rather than embracing any potentially fresh aspects.
Didn't Finish It!
Emelie – A quaint street and asking for directions leads to abductions in this 2015 thriller starring Sarah Bolger (The Tudors). Short notice babysitter switches and rowdy kids aged eleven, nine, and four are both slow to meet the family and busy with assorted video games, handheld gizmos, computers, and Facebook talk. Although there's a bizarre lack of cell phones, our dad can pick up the teen babysitter and chat up his restored classic car in creepy conversations that don't go unnoticed by his wife. The eleven year old doesn't want to play little kid games anymore, and the parents talk to him about stepping up and being the big brother while the babysitter encourages them to play grown up pretend with mama bear and dead cub bedtime stories. She gives back toys that mom had taken away, and the opening kidnapping of the real babysitter being replaced by the titular weirdo isn't quite clear until this gets more warped. We thought this was going to be a scary movie, but the plot degrades into bloody tampons, sex tapes, sleeping pills, and terrorizing kids with dead pets. Rather than horror entertainment, this is just one off putting element after the next. No thanks.