Maverick filmmaker Frank Laloggia is a director whose facility for stylistic flourishes is more pronounced than his ability to structure a coherent thriller. MOTHER, like previous Laloggia mixed blessings (FEAR NO EVIL, LADY IN WHITE), is more intriguing in parts than as a whole, but it
does demonstrate that Laloggia is a rarity: a contemporary horror director with a psycho-sexual agenda rather than a hack mowing down his casts like a Grim Reaper working on commission.
Maintaining a stranglehold on her doting son Tom Hendrix (Morgan Weisser), Olivia Hendrix (Diana Ladd) lacks the normal maternal instinct to back off in the face of her teenager's sexual maturity. Bolstering her possessiveness is the warped Mrs. Jay (Olympia Dukakis), whose friendship masks a
chicken-hawkish desire to bed young Tom. Egged on by Mrs. Jay, Olivia confiscates letters of college acceptance and scholarship offers and embarrasses Tom in public when he sneaks off for a date with Audrey (Ele Keats).
While Tom's plans to design greeting cards remain tangled in Mama's apron strings, a mystery man, Ben Wilson (Matt Clark) searches for him. It is revealed that Olivia kidnapped Tom from Ben, his father, after a tragic accident; on the day she and Ben brought newborn Tom home from the hospital, his
older sibling fell out the window.
Clutching at Tom through a drug overdose and hospitalization, Olivia will stop at nothing to pry him from Audrey; she even bashes in the skull of her psychiatrist Dr. Chase (Scott Wilson) when he attempts to tell Tom that his father is alive.
When frustrated Mrs. Jay is spurned by Tom, she blabs to Olivia that Tom has consummated his relationship with Audrey. As Ben zeros in on his absentee family, crazed Olivia learns about Mrs. Jay's ulterior motive from Audrey, who she electrocutes in a bathtub. Then Olivia knifes Mrs. Jay. Freaked
out by the frying of his beloved, Tom almost shoots Olivia. Ben intervenes, but the gun goes off anyway. Wounded, Olivia clings to a fire escape landing, and plunges to her death when it pulls loose from the wall.
Bubbling with repressed sexuality, MOTHER concentrates on heady atmosphere and fleshed-out characterizations--the elements most mainstream horror flicks dispense with altogether. A serious stab at reviving the BABY JANE geriatric-freak shows, MOTHER doesn't exercise enough finesse in integrating
its flashbacks to escalate tension. Instead of imploding from its Oedipal taboos at the climax, the film loses power with mini-explosions throughout.
Although the screenwriter is sharp enough to ground Olivia with a MILDRED PIERCE-ian motivation, the director doesn't exploit a fear-and-pity dichotomy in his presentation of this character; instead, this Mommie Dearest becomes FRIDAY THE 13TH's Jason Vorhees in a housedress, despite Ladd's subtle
efforts to humanize her maniacal role. Worse off is Dukakis who preens in an ill- conceived part. Her jealousy should register as poisonously intrusive, but Dukakis seems to be playing Auntie Mame fighting her menstrual cycle.
Having laid the groundwork for a truly malevolent chiller, this unusually bleak movie doesn't go deep enough in its Mother-bashing. Because Laloggia chooses not to force our faces down into the darkest reflections of family dysfunction, we remain detached. He plays superficially with abnormal
psychology before letting his protagonist go on a typical slasher spree. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Maverick filmmaker Frank Laloggia is a director whose facility for stylistic flourishes is more pronounced than his ability to structure a coherent thriller. MOTHER, like previous Laloggia mixed blessings (FEAR NO EVIL, LADY IN WHITE), is more intriguing i… (more)