When the remake boom hit, Lloyd Kaufman started getting offers for the remake rights to certain films from the Troma Entertainment library. He held off for a while, but times are tough for indie companies, and selling those rights could provide some extra cash to help keep Troma afloat. Eventually, he let the remake rights to both the most popular Troma film, The Toxic Avenger, and his brother’s 1980 film Mother’s Day go to a producer named Richard Saperstein. While The Toxic Avenger re-do remains in development, Saperstein and fellow producer/filmmaker Brett Ratner got the Mother’s Day remake shot rather quickly… Although behind-the-scenes issues kept the film from being released for two years, and then it got a much smaller release than it was expected to.
The producers hired Darren Lynn Bousman, fresh off the success of Saw parts 2, 3, and 4, to direct the film, and directing a remake is not something Bousman took lightly. He had received offers for others and was at one point even attached to direct a remake of David Cronenberg’s Scanners, but left that project when Cronenberg expressed displeasure at the idea of it.
Receiving the blessing of the original director was very important to Bousman, and with Lloyd and Charles Kaufman granting theirs, Bousman moved forward with Mother’s Day. At one point, Franck Khalfoun (who himself directed the recent Maniac remake) was on board to write the screenplay, but part of the reason why Mother’s Day came together so quickly may be the fact that the script they ended up using was not originally developed to be Mother’s Day at all, it was an existing script that screenwriter Scott Milam had written years earlier under the title Wichita.
Based on a hauntingly horrific true crime that happened in Wichita, Kansas, Milam’s Wichita was on the 2006 Black List, a survey of the year’s most well liked unproduced screenplays. Dimension Films bought the script and hired Bousman to direct it right after Saw II was a hit at the box office. The intention was for Bousman to move on to directing Wichita right after he finished up on Saw III… But then Bousman’s next film after Saw III was Saw IV. Years passed, the movie never went into production at Dimension, and when you take a look at the Wichita script, it’s not hard to see why it was never filmed. A movie studio would have to be insane to buy it in the first place; the violence within its pages was way too graphically sexually oriented to ever reach theatre screens. So with Wichita dead at Dimension, Bousman brought the script over to Mother’s Day, and Milam rewrote it to fit its new identity.
Bousman and Milam’s Wichita/Mother’s Day hybrid reimagines brothers Ike and Addley as real world-style criminals (and gives them the last name Koffin) who have been on a violent bank robbing spree in the area of Kansas and neighboring states. Their latest bank robbery has gone very wrong, their partner double crossed them and ran off with the money, their younger brother Johnny was wounded in a shootout with police. As the brothers speed away from the scene with the screaming, bleeding, gut shot Johnny in the backseat, it’s very Reservoir Dogs.
The brothers need to get Johnny to a safe house – the house they grew up in. Their Mother’s house. They get to the house, enter, get Johnny on the couch… and that’s when they realize the decor is entirely different than they’re used to. This isn’t their Mother’s house anymore. Mother Koffin lost it in a foreclosure and realtor Beth Sohapi, looking to move out of the city and into the suburbs with her husband Daniel after the loss of their young son in a car accident, nabbed the property before it went up for auction. The Koffin brothers haven’t talked to their mother for a while, the Sohapis moved in two months ago
Ike, Addley, and Johnny have arrived at the house right in the middle of Daniel’s birthday party, which is being celebrated in the basement rec room of the home. Beth and Daniel’s guests include a young medical professional named George, his single mother girlfriend Melissa, married couple Treshawn and Gina, engaged couple Dave and Annette, and Daniel’s co-worker Julie. The Koffins have inadvertently found themselves with nine hostages.
Most of the group is forced to stay in the basement while George is made to care for Johnny, a job which he knows is hopeless. The Koffins manage to get in contact with their mother and their sister Lydia, who now live in a motor home, and the motor home soon arrives at the house. Mother Koffin wades into the party-turned-hostage-situation and takes control.
The family has a way to escape the country, but to do so they must pay a man named Gabriel ten thousand dollars… money which they don’t have. Items of value are collected from their hostages, ATM cards and pin numbers taken so Ike can drive Beth around town and make her empty out accounts. There’s also the question of where the money the brothers have been mailing home to their mother has been ending up for the past two months. There should be a total of around one thousand dollars, but Beth and Daniel claim they haven’t gotten any money in the mail. Are they lying and hiding it somewhere in the house?
As the night progresses and a storm blows in, with the news warning of tornadoes, more secrets the hostages are holding from each other are brought to the surface. Tensions boil over. Not only are the criminals a threat to them, some of the hostages are a threat to each other as well. To keep their captors happy, some are willing turn against their friends.
Beth doesn’t have it any easier while she’s out and about in town with Ike. She repeatedly makes attempts to escape or tell people what’s happening, and every attempt goes terribly wrong.
Over the course of the film, we learn more about the Koffin family dynamic as well. Mother has raised her children in crime, giving them strict rules to follow, rules which her sons haven’t stuck to and that’s why they’re in this situation now. She made herself their whole world, keeping them under her wing and away from outside influences. They were home schooled, they weren’t taken to doctors, and they were warned that if they misbehaved, they’d be punished by a creature named Queenie who lives in the woods behind the house.
An opening sequence suggests that Mother might have even stolen them from maternity wards when they were babies rather than having given birth to them… Or maybe the movie is toying with you, like its villains toy with their victims.
The Koffins care for each other deeply and have a twisted sense of honor, but the people under their control are just their playthings. They punish the unruly with torturous acts involving fire and boiling water. When Johnny expresses regret that he may die before he loses virginity, Annette is dressed up and forced to put on a show for him. Hostages are made to fight each other. Two girls are given a knife and told the one who kills the other will be allowed to go free. Questioning Daniel about the missing money, Mother burns pictures of his dead son in front of him.
It’s a given that the family is going to kill all of these people when they’ve gotten what they need to escape. In the end, their victims will either have to turn the tables or suffer a terrible fate.
The film is packed with sick and disturbing scenarios, many of which are lifted straight from Milam’s Wichita script, although thankfully the disgusting sexual acts did not make the transition. In fact, there may be too many scenarios and horrible situations playing out here, as it makes the movie feel to me like it just goes on and on. The length of the film reinforces that notion. It runs 112 minutes, way too long for this sort of film. Bousman whittled it down from a 4 hour cut, but any longer than it ended up being and it would be completely intolerable. For my taste, something closer to 90 minutes would’ve been even better. As it is, my attention starts to wander and I just want the movie to get it over with already.
Bousman did assemble a great cast to have tormented during the film’s bloated running time. In the lead role of Beth, he cast Jaime King of the My Bloody Valentine remake, and she can play terror excellently. Frank Grillo was on the edge of a career breakthrough when he was cast as Daniel Sohapi (the Native American last name meant a lot more in the Wichita script), since making this movie he’s had roles in the likes of Warrior, The Grey, and even played Brock Rumlow/Crossbones in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There’s Lyriq Bent from the Saw films, Kandyse McClure from the Children of the Corn remake and the Carrie TV movie, Tony Nappo of Saw sequels and Land of the Dead, Briana Evigan from Burning Bright, the House on Sorority Row remake, and Bousman’s episode of Fear Itself, X-Men’s Iceman Shawn Ashmore, and Alexa Vega (Spy Kids, Repo! The Genetic Opera) and A.J. Cook (Final Destination 2) show up along the way.
The Koffins were also perfectly cast for their roles, with Patrick Flueger a commanding presence as Ike, Warren Kole a wild card as Addley (and though Addley was the disco fan in the 1980 Mother’s Day, this Addley hates disco), Matt O’Leary is… mostly in a whole lot of pain as Johnny, and Deborah Ann Woll as the intriguingly introverted Lydia. If the victims could reach any of the Koffins, appeal to them to do the right thing, it would be her.
Rebeeca De Mornay delivers a fantastic performance as Mother Koffin. She handles everything with a chilling calm, she’s always quick to smile but there’s a fierceness right under the surface. She makes it very clear that she is willing to do anything to keep her family safe and together, and she’s very capable of doing whatever those things may be, no matter how wrong or violent.
There are callbacks to the original film throughout Mother’s Day 2010. A nod to the disco/punk arguments, the Queenie reference, the line “You’ve made your mother very proud”, the use of Drano and a television in ways they’re not meant to be used. Beyond those and the simple fact that there’s a mother with sons named Ike and Addley who do terrible things, the two Mother’s Day movies are very different beasts. As you would expect, given the roots of the screenplay.
I commend the remake for doing its own thing and not just trying to be a modern day version of the very unique movie Charles Kaufman made, however I do find it quite odd that the producers would go through the trouble of purchasing the remake rights just to take an existing script and retrofit it into Mother’s Day rather than developing something for it from the ground up. But, that was their prerogative.
Mother’s Day 2010, while overly long, is a fine film in its own right and can’t really be compared to Mother’s Day 1980, so when it comes down to choosing which one you prefer, the deciding factor is the style and tone. 2010 is a straightforward, dark, serious crime tale. 1980 is goofy and insane. Me, I go with goofy and insane, 2010 is not a movie I feel the need to watch repeatedly, while sporadic viewings of 1980 will always be had.