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Mother’s Day (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Mother’s Day (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 24th, 2023.
    Director: Charles Kaufman
    Cast: Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Frederick Coffin, Michael McCleery, Beatrice Pons
    Year: 1980
    Purchase From Amazon

    Mother’s Day – Movie Review:

    Directed by Charles Kaufman in 1980 and co-written by Kaufman and Warren Leight, Mother's Day, presented on Blu-ray in its uncut version from Anchor Bay Entertainment, begins when a seemingly meek old woman (Beatrice Pons) leaves a self-improvement seminar and offers to drive home two of her fellow attendees. When the car sputters and stops, we figure the old lady is done for as one of the passengers reaches for a rope, but before they can make their move someone leaps out of the trees and decapitates the male passenger with a machete.

    From here we meet three college friends - Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson), Jackie (Deborah Luce) and Trina (Tiana Pierce) - who get together once a year for a trip 'no matter what.' This time around they head out to the 'Deep Barons Wilderness Area' in the rural part of New Jersey. After stopping for supplies, they head into the woods and set up camp. All is going well - they're skinny dipping and reminiscing about old times… until two young men, Ike (Frederick Coffin) and Addley (Michael McCleery) wrap the girls up in their sleeping bags and abduct them. The girls awake as prisoners at a filthy rundown farm house presided over by a familiar looking old woman who seems to be able to talk these two 'boys' into doing whatever she tells them to. Of course, our three heroines try to escape, but that's not going to be easy…

    Likely influenced by films like Wes Craven's Last House On The Left and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Kaufman's film injects a lot more black humor into the film and, as such, it has a lighter tone than those two aforementioned pictures. This doesn't mean that it doesn't wind up in some very dark territory towards the end, however, as the comedy begins to subside and the film gets seriously grim. Early on, however, there are some amusing bits that'll pay off for attentive viewers, be it the small town store clerk clipping his nails and cutting himself when the 'lezbeans' come in and knock over all of his produce, or the debates that continually rage between brothers Ike and Addley – punk “sucks! Disco’s stupid!”. There's also some amusing dialogue throughout the film too, some of which actually occurs between captor and captive. Small details like the Big Bird alarm, clock, the Superman suspenders and the bodybuilding magazines spread around the house would seem to indicate that boys are a little on the slow side but then this contrasts with scenes in which 'mother' has them training by punching homemade punching bags and chopping up plastic dolls - it's all very obviously a strange environment indeed and 'mother' seems to have no problem watching her kids rape and torture their new friends.

    Performances are pretty good here, for the most part. The three female leads start off as a little hokey but eventually some personality comes out and by the time it all hits the fan we definitely feel sorry for them enough to care about their outcome. The real stars are the 'family' members, however. Frederick Coffin, Michael McCleery and Beatrice Pons all go completely over the top here and the movie is all the better for it. This all adds up to an interesting conundrum in that we laugh at the movie but realize we shouldn't be - once this starts to sink in, the ending is more powerful than it would be otherwise. Ultimately, yeah, this might be a trashy exploitation film but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's quite well made and wholly deserving of its reputation.

    Mother’s Day – UHD Review:

    The HEVC encoded 2160p transfer, framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and featuring HDR10 looks great. Restored from its original 35mm camera negative, detail is really strong – you really get a feel for how filthy the house is - and colors look spot-on not only in the brightly lit outdoor scenes but even in the darker interior and nighttime sequences. Black levels are nice and inky deep and skin tones look lifelike and accurate. There are no problems to note with any compression, noise reduction or visible edge enhancement and while the natural grain inherent in the source material is rightly preserved, there’s very little actual print damage here to note, the image is virtually spotless.

    An English language 2.0 Mono option is provided in 24-bit DTS-HD format with optional subtitles available in English only. Audio quality is also very good, the levels are properly balanced and there’s some pretty decent depth and range in the mix. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and the score sounds good. There’s a lot more depth here than on the previous Anchor Bay Blu-ray release, which only had a lossy Dolby Digital Mono track on it.

    Extras on the UHD include a commentary track with Charles Kaufman where he offers up some insight into what it was like working on this picture, who did what, locations, effects, cast and crew contributions and input and more. It's a decent track that sometimes goes astray but which manages to offer some welcome back story for the film.

    You're a Sick Woman! is an interview with actress Nancy Hendrickson that runs for thirty-three minutes. In this piece, she covers her background and education, how she got into acting, how Mother's Day was her first time working on film, how she came to work with Charles Kaufman in the first place, what it was like on set, getting along with her co-stars, memories of shooting specific scenes, how the film was marketed and received, connecting with fans on social media and how she feels about the movie and experiences working on it in hindsight.

    My Brother And Me interviews actor Michael McCleery in a twenty-seven minute piece that details how he got into acting in college doing plays, moving from Colorado to New York, going on to do film work, thoughts on Kaufman as a director, being on location in New Jersey, where he took his alias from for the non-union shoot, getting along with his co-stars, some issues that arose on set, his thoughts on the film overall and on some specific scenes and doing horror conventions based on his appearance in the movie.

    Writing To Mother is an interview with co-writer Warren Leight that runs thirty-eight minutes. He gives us some background information on his background and education before then going on to discuss how he got involved with show business, connecting with Charles Kaufman, coming up with some of the ideas for the movie, how the script tries to say something about 'crap American culture,' the struggles of art versus commerce when it comes to writing, how the house location reflects the tone of the script, thoughts on the casting and acting in the movie, other writing he's done since and how lucky he was that this movie helped launch his career the way it did.

    The Book Of Mother's Day sits down with producer Michael Kravitz for a thirty-three minute talk about working with Kaufman, thoughts on the script, his background, how he came to the project in the first place, wanting to capitalize on the success of movies like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, an interesting connection to Friday The 13th, why he appreciates the production value in the movie, thoughts on the cast and lots more. During the talk he shoes off his original script book and some marketing materials created for the movie.

    The Last House In The Woods talks to production designer Susan Kaufman and costume designer Ellen Lutter in a twenty-two minute piece that details their initial thoughts on the script, how they came to work on together on the movie, early work with Troma, background and educational details, working with Charles Kaufman, the New York film scene of the time, some of what they were responsible for on the production, the social commentary in the movie, working within the confines of the budget and lots more.

    Cutting Mother lets editor Daniel Loewenthal and assistant editor Richard W. Haines talk for half an hour about how they each got started in the business, working in New York, collaborating with Charles Kaufman and landing their respective jobs on Mother's Day, the hectic schedule, how they tried to make the movie an effective horror film, some of their influences, projects they've worked on since and how Mother's Day helped their careers.

    Celebrating Mother's Day is an interview with assistant art director Rex A. Piano Celebrating Mother's Day is an interview with assistant art director Rex A. Piano. This twenty-two minute interview sees him talk about his background, what connections led to his working on the project, thoughts on the script, how much fun Charles Kaufman was to work with, repurposing an old abandoned house and turning it into the main location for the story, trying to get as much for the movie as possible for free, ideas he came up with for a sequel, thoughts on the remake, the feminist angles of the story and how he feels the movie and its director are underappreciated.

    Director Charles Kaufman interviewed by Lloyd Kaufman is an amusing eight minute piece where Lloyd interviews Charles about why he made the movie, working with a low budget, trying to make the movie unique and where some of the ideas came from for the story.

    The interview with actress Tiana Pierce runs seven minutes and sees her talk about the locations, how she got involved in the movie, her most memorable scene, what the conditions were like on set, if there's a message in the movie and how it affected her career.

    Messin' Up In Deep Barons: The Locations of Mother's Day is a tour of the shooting locations with Rex A. Piano and Mother's Day superfan Brandon Hall. It spends nineteen minutes showing off the Blairstown, New Jersey area locations that were used in the movie as they appear in the film versus what they look like today, with Piano sharing specific memories of each location. It also goes over how and why Hall became a superfan.

    Archival extras include a two minute interview with Charles Kaufman where he shows off his bakery. We also get an eight minute long interview with Charles Kaufman conducted by Darren Lynn Bousman at the San Diego Comic Con from 2010. Bousman was the man behind the Mother's Day remake and here he expresses his admiration for Kaufman's original and picks the man's brain about the film for a little while. Up next, we get a thirteen minute long featurette in which Eli Roth talks about why Mother's Day is one of his favorite films of all time and tries to put some social context into the discussion of the film. Also included is ten minutes’ worth of 8mm behind the scenes footage that amounts to some effects test shots and screen tests. These are worth checking out for curiosity's sake and it's nice to see them included here. An archival interview with Piano running just over a minute is also included.

    Finishing up the extras is the film’s original theatrical trailer, a TV spot, multiple radio spots, menus and chapter selection options.

    As to the packaging, units purchased from the Vinegar Syndrome website come with a spot gloss slipcover designed by Robert Sammelin which is limited to 7,000 units as well as some reversible cover sleeve art.

    Mother’s Day - The Final Word:

    Beautifully skuzzy and brazenly bizarre, Charles Kaufman's original version of Mother's Day is a deft mix of pitch black comedy and fairly effective and disturbing horror. The performances are wonderfully over the top and the locations amazingly filthy, giving this one a look and feel all its own. The UHD/Blu-ray combo pack reissue from Vinegar Syndrome gives the movie a sterling presentation and a host of excellent extra features, making this pretty much the definitive release of the movie.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Mother’s Day Blu-ray screen caps!

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