Saturday, May 17, 2008

DVD Review: Serial Mom (Collector's Edition)

Starring: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard
Director: John Waters
DVD Release Date: May 6, 2008
Running Time: 94 min
MPAA Rating: R
Distributor: Universal Studios

“Wow, I haven’t seen that movie in years.”

Yeah, that’s what I said too. I remember seeing and liking it when it came out but hadn’t thought about Serial Mom in years until I was given the opportunity to review the newly released Collector’s Edition.

In case you don’t remember the story. Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) is a suburban housewife who seems to have everything. Her house is always immaculate, she makes a killer meatloaf and she loves her family dearly; her obliviously nerdy husband Eugene (Sam Waterston), their constantly lovesick daughter, Misty (Ricki Lake) and their horror-film loving son, Chip (Matthew Lillard). Together they are the portrait of the perfect all-American family except for the nagging little detail that behind closed doors Beverly is a raging sociopath who dispatches her victims with little reason.

Of course to her, she has all the reason in the world. Her reasons range from off-handed threats, perceived or otherwise, to members of her family to poor social habits such as not recycling and wearing white shoes after Labor Day. The relevance of her reasoning is unimportant because Beverly doesn’t seem to exist on the same plane of social conscience as everyone else in the known world. Her motivations are also ingeniously left uncovered. We have no idea what makes her tick other than to suggest that when things don’t go her way she simply eliminates the nuisance. In the movie there is no evidence that she is normal until something makes her snap. I imagine that Beverly has been killing for some time and the movie is just a glance at the timeframe in every serial killer’s ‘career’ where they either get lazy or want to get caught. If that is the case, I don’t think she wants to get caught for the sake of stopping her zealous behavior more than I think she actually wants to be applauded for doing the world a service.

This is the kind of story that fits perfectly in the John Waters canon. Serial Mom continues his path to mainstream after the campy films of his early career. Like all of the films Waters has made, despite the topic discussed in the movie it really is funny. The contrast between Beverly’s outward persona and the inner demons she tries less and less to hide make the movie more than a one-note joke. The same way that the idea of murder isn’t traditionally a very humorous topic, Waters creates this world of such overblown surrealism that it fits all too tidily. Contrary to the films statement otherwise, this was not based on a true story, at least not that I am aware of.

Until this week I had not seen the film since it came out and one thing really struck me as curious. Fifteen years after the film was made, it actually has more depth than it did in 1993. It transformed from a simple comedic satire to a commentary of our current society’s fascination with celebrity and our media’s ignorant willingness to make anyone with a story famous. You have to keep in mind that O.J., Robert Blake and Columbine all came after this movie was made. Had this movie been made today it would be significant but with a whole separate feel. As it stands John Waters is either a genius or just got really lucky this time.

Or maybe both.

And there’s the rub.

*** out of ****

DVD Special Features:
- Feature Commentary with John Waters and Kathleen Turner
- Feature Commentary with John Waters
- Serial Mom: Surreal Moments – a mini documentary on the making of Serial Mom with Waters and stars of the film reminiscing about the films production.
- The Kings of Gore: Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman – a tribute.
- The Making of Serial Mom – an original promotional featurette.


JD said...

Good review. Made me feel like I was in 1994 all over again.

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