The mixture of satiric and vicious ingredients that may turn "Mother's Day" into a wacko-perverso cult classic are blended without delay. The prologue begins with the dimissal of a weekend encounter-therapy program. One customer, an elderly lady wearing a neck brace, offers a lift to two fellow participants, a rhapsodic hippie chick and her tactiturn boyfriend.
While polite converstation continues in the car, it becomes apparent that the youngsters intend to murder the old woman. Before they can act, they receive a nasty surprise: The old girl stops the car on a lonely road, and a pair of assailants springs from the neighboring woods to behead the male passenger and threaten the female with rape after a terrifying beating about the face and head.
There's no denying that director Charles Kaufman has a flair for assult. You feel stunned and scared even if you think you're battle-hardened by an excess of horror movies. It can only be the desire for general release that restrains Kaufman from following through on the sexual victimization. Instead, he allows the old lady -- now identified as the gleeful mom of the two overpowering degenerates -- to deliver the coup de grace by garroting the battered young woman.
Kaufman permits the audience to catch its breath during the credit sequence while briskly introducing the central characters, a trio of former college roommates who get together for annual reunions. Tiana Pierce, a towering blong who resembles Barbara Eden, is some kind of celebrity boss lady in Beverly Hills. Nancy Hendrickson is a bespectacled mouse burdened with an invalid mother in Chicago. Deborah Luce is a divorced career woman from New York.
The girls have elected to spend their upcoming reunion in the back country ("Deep Barons Wilderness Area -- Proceed At Your Own Risk") and are obviously destined to run afoul of bloodthirsty ma (Rose Ross) and her two brutish sons, facetiously christened Ike (Holden McGuire) and Adlai (Billy Ray McQuade).
Ike and Adlai truss up the city girls in their own sleeping bags and lug them to a ramshackle abode cluttered with stolen appliances, junky decor and provisions of junk food.
One of the girls fails to survive, but the remaining two manage to escape and exact extravagantly picturesque revenge on the depraved captors with such weapons as an antenna, a hatchet, a TV set and an electric carving knife. Kaufman demonstrates considerable resourcefulness at inflicting punishment on both characters and audience. For example, one of the captives tries to lower the other from an upper-story window and must hold the line taut for fear of alerting the captors; Kaufman lingers over the rope cutting bloody gashes in the palm of her hands. ("Mother'd Day" was threatened with an X rating on five separate occasions by the MPAA. Ultimately, the distributor decided to go into release without a rating. An introductory note appears to self-apply an R, but it's wise to assume the hardest of unofficial Rs.)
Kaufman may have a sincerely savage outlook on life. Moreover, he may be ain instinctive misogynist. Although one roots for the endangered heroines on principle, they are portrayed as a vaguely dislikable lot, foolishly proud of their independence and brimming up pent-up aggressions, which used to surface in a joking way back in college, where they delighted in pranks and called themselves "The Rat Pack."
Ike and Adlai seem to be carrying out vicious notions that originate with their ma, and apparently there's a sister named Queenie running around loose who makes ma look almost civilized. Confirmation awaits Kaufman's subsequent nightmares. I can't pretend to await them with anticipation, but Kaufman may be a nightmarish original.
You can't escape noticing that he has metaphorical aspirations of some kind for this horrifying fable, although it's difficult to believe that they make a difference. "Mother's Day" occasionally seems like a shocker with pretensions and a weird sense of humor, but it never transcends the exploitation framework: You come out feeling far more brutalized than edified.