BY: DAKOTA DAHL
Starring: Patty McCormack, Rachel Lemiuex, Jason Miller and Mickey Spillane
Directed by: Max Allan Collins
Written by: Max Allan Collins
I’m having tremendous difficulty trying to capture in words how weird everything is surrounding the movie MOMMY and its sequel MOMMY’S DAY, so I’m just going to jump right in. These two films are the directorial debut of Max Allan Collins, who is best known for writing the graphic novel that inspired ROAD TO PERDITION. If you insist on checking out his other film credits, which I felt compelled to do after seeing this, you’ll see that he also wrote a whole slew of C.S.I. video games, which makes as much sense as anything else here.
The crux of this film is that it is the unofficial sequel to the 1956 ground-breaking film THE BAD SEED, which was about a the murderous child Rhoda, amazingly portrayed by Patty McCormack. MOMMY desperately needs you to remember McCormack as Rhoda, since the movie basically shows what it would be like if Rhoda grew up and became a mother in her own right (hint: she still murders.)
One of the first things Rhoda-but-not-Rhoda does is protest that her child is being overlooked for some arbitrary Elementary school award. She claims that her daughter, Jessica Ann, is being punished for being white and having a good upbringing, and a Mexican child is being given the award solely on the merit of their race. Pretty cool that a 1995 film managed to tackle white privilege, especially to establish a character as a psychopathic shithead. Anyway, Mommy overreacts and breaks the neck of the teacher, but she does it while out of frame, so the film can keep up some sense of “maybe she isn’t the murderer” up to a point.
Things go quickly from here, where we learn that Mommy may have murdered her first husband/Jessica Ann’s father, plus her second husband. There’s a detective who’s on to her games, as played by THE EXORCIST’s Jason Miller. Yeah, Father Karras is here, and that isn’t even the weirdest credit here. No, what really broke my brain is that there’s an attorney played by Mickey Spillane. Yeah, the dude who wrote every private detective novel ever, has a bit part in this film. The bizarrely loaded cast makes me think that Max Allan Collins called in a lot of favors/blackmail. Long story short, Mommy kills a bunch of people, but ends up being stopped at the end of the film through the power of a child’s love or something.
The sequel, MOMMY’S DAY, goes apeshit. Somehow there’s a huge crowd of people who are empathetic to Mommy’s cause, despite her trying to choke her daughter to death in a junkyard. Not enough people to prevent her from getting the death sentence, though, so maybe justice will be served! Just kidding, Mommy talks her way out of a lethal injection by confusing her executioner somehow, whom she quickly murders offscreen. And instead of like, trying to fill her with lethal barbiturates again but with a more competent person manning the syringe, they instead give her a chip in her arm that will quell her murderous tendencies (1995 technology was, in fact, superior to ours.) Why they didn’t use this chip FIRST is anybody’s guess. I guess you only qualify for the high tech anti-murder chip after you’ve racked up a certain body count, and killing her executioner put her just over the mark?
Now allowed to roam free under no supervision (duh), Mommy is told to stay away from her daughter, instructions she quickly disregards and repeatedly visits her daughter, who I’ll remind you, she tried to strangle. People keep catching her around Jessica Ann, and instead of freaking out about this, they just give her a stern talking to and a shrug. The beautiful under-reactions by basically everyone is so crucial to keeping the plot going, it’s terrifically surreal. Every one of these people winds up dead, the best one being Jessica Ann’s figure skating coach, who gets stabbed 40+ with some ice skates.
The sequel actually does have a few twists and turns hiding inside the beautiful nonsense, so I’ll keep the ending to myself, thereby forcing you to by this three disc Blu-Ray set. I will reveal that it has a cool bit of meta-awareness where Mommy actually says “Don’t you know the sequel is never as good as the original?” MOMMY’S DAY was being self aware one year before Wes Craven beat that dead horse with Scream 2.
I’ll be honest and say that my heart really loves these two movies, but I have no problem admitting that it is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. They’re kind of bad,but they’re entertaining and aware of their own limitations. They just want to show you a murderous mom and the wacky hijinks she gets up to. It’s worth a watch, but don’t expect a cerebral classic.
Also, the Blu-Ray is bristling with bombastic bloopers, which is actually kind of fun to see on a horror film. There’s also two documentaries, plus an interview of Patty McCormack by the director. Unfortunately, the cheap film stock used back in a 1995 B-Movie doesn’t upgrade well to newer resolution televisions, so that might be a hurdle for some viewers to get over. If a little grainy picture quality doesn’t get you down, this is definitely worth checking out, because again, Mickey Spillane is in this movie and I don’t know why or how.