There’s no denying every once in a while, sometimes even more than that, certain concepts get copied, be it intentionally or unintentionally, and as a 46 year old reviewer, movie watcher and DVD collector I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of concepts repeat. Just last year I reviewed a movie called, Life After Beth (2014) that’s about this guy’s girlfriend dying and returning from the dead to slowly wreak bloody havoc on his and everyone else’s life she comes into contact with. Just this year I reviewed Joe Dante’s new movie, Burying The Ex (2014), which is also a comedy horror flick about this guy’s girlfriend dying and returning from the dead to slowly wreak bloody havoc on his and everyone else’s life she comes into contact with. Both of these movies obviously have similar concepts and using my 40+ years of movie watching experience I was able to track this “concept thread” back to what I initially thought was its “genesis” of the 1993 horror comedy, Ed And His Dead Mother whose concept is similar but the particulars of which don’t involve boyfriends and girlfriends but a dude whose mother comes back from the dead. But I was proven wrong when this past summer I learned of a movie MGM was putting out on their MOD program called Mom that pre-dates Ed by two years.
What makes this movie really unique is that I’ve never heard of it in my life. Not often do I come upon a movie from what I call the “memory movie chapter” of my life that has flown so far under my radar it’s existence has escaped me for decades. I was 22 back in ’91 and a regular subscriber of Fangoria and a regular VHS collector, mostly buying my movies at one of two stores at the mall. A record store, whose name I can no longer remember, and Saturday Matinee, a store that catered solely to VHS and laserdisc lovers.
Looking Mom up on IMDB I see it was never released in theaters but premiered on tape in June ’91. Forget what IMDB says about it being a comedy horror flick there ain’t a lick of comedy in this movie. It’s straight up horror. But you’d never know that looking at its VHS cover. Hell, it even has a blurb stating, ‘From The Producer Of Men At Work.’ Men At Work (1990) is that Charlie Sheen/Emilio Estevez comedy. I love that movie. It’s hilarious. Bottom line…that blurb and that cover are deceptive. Had that cover been used on the MOD I wouldn’t have given it a second look when I came upon it. Take a look at the DVD cover on the right above. I only took notice of this flick because of the monster situated so blatantly in the background. And when I was shopping for new movies at Saturday Matinee I didn’t confine myself to just the horror and science fiction sections, I wonder now, perhaps, because of that deceptive VHS artwork it was shelved in with the comedies and I also wonder now if I may have spotted it but skipped right over it because a comedy called, Mom, isn’t really in my wheelhouse, even if it was made by the producer of Men At Work.
Another curious thing, however, since it falls squarely in the horror genre I checked Fangoria’s magazine index and from what I could see it was never covered. Another reason why its existence may have eluded me. Based on this personal obscurity I’m going to also assume it’s Ed And His Dead Mother that was more well known and I only assume that because of the more comedic similarities Life After Beth and Burying The Ex have in common with it even even though Ed and Mom are more a like with the mother/son plot dynamic and she becoming a monster.
I’m tempted to sew into this “concept thread” My Boyfriend’s Back (1993) but I’m not sure I want to do that. Again the concept is similar, but the particulars of it are too different for me to comfortably link it with the others. In all four of those previous movies the antagonists are cannibalistic women while the protagonists are all innocent males to varying degrees. In Boyfriend it’s the dude, who dies prematurely and comes back from the dead, and he’s not even the bad guy, he’s just misunderstood really, and it’s the school bullies and the townsfolk who are the antagonists. Still…there may have been some subconscious weaving at work here from Ed and Mom.
Speaking of cannibalistic females returning from the dead what makes Mom stand out from the pack, and why I really liked the movie, is that the creature she becomes and the creature that “infects” her aren’t easily classified. You can see the thing on the DVD cover and the photos below. There’s also a nice shot of it on the back cover of the DVD. I like that it has an Asian ghoul vibe about it.
Perfectly cast Brion James is the creature in human form. Yes, where dealing with shape-shifters here. I love shape-shifters. Just randomly throwing that out there. He goes by the name of Nestor Duvalier and he speaks with a menacing tone all the time and with a Southern accent. We meet Nestor right in the beginning at a bus stop in the middle of the night. He’s acting all anti-social and into himself as this old man drops off his daughter, Virginia Monroe, played by Claudia Christian. She’s heading off to LA to “disappear” and she’s trying to get Nestor’s attention. The final offering of a cigarette seems to do it, but he’s not interested in smoking. He grabs her and takes her out further into the desert where he transforms into this “ghoul” and chomps into her stomach.
- All photos in this review (VHS/DVD covers notwithstanding) are not from MGM’s better looking DVD-R, but from YouTube.
These two shots (above and below) are what Nestor looks like in mid-transformation and fully transformed.
That’s right, Claudia is in this movie for a whole five minutes. I’m surprised she wasn’t billed as simply “victim #1.” Of course this is before she got famous as Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5 (1994-1998), which I’m sure most fans know her from, but when I hear her name my first thoughts go to her alien possessed stripper in The Hidden (1987) and the psychopathic fashion model she played in the comedy, Hexed (1993).
Nestor is cutting a swath of bloody death across the Nation. Whatever he is he mostly kills those who are pregnant, for his favorite delicacy is unborn fetus. It’s when he gets to Los Angeles that our movie really begins for our attentions are then turned to a Clay Dwyer (Craig Sheffer look-alike Mark Thomas Miller) who’s a local reporter. His mother, Emily, is planning on renting his room out to make a little extra money and this is how she and Nestor meet. Once he reaches the hunting grounds of L.A., he adopts the-wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing appearance of a blind man. He should have worked on lessening the inherent menace in his tone to further complete the sheep’s appearance, but I guess there are only so many disguises he can don before the inherent monster within draws a line.
It’s never explained why this monster takes pity on this old woman and simply infects her with his bite rather than eat her. She misses an appointment, which prompts Clay and his pregnant girlfriend, Alice (actress Mary Beth McDonough of 1981 TV horror movie Midnight Offerings) to go over and see what’s wrong. Clay meets Nestor and instantly feels something is wrong.
He plays off the unpleasant vibe by telling them Emily is under the weather and up in her bedroom asleep. Checking up on her shows us what’s really happening to her. As she’s trying to assuage her son’s feelings we see a bloody severed arm lying next to her under the sheets. Oh, yeah, she’s already in the acceptance phase and eating people now.
Shit, this particular “turning” moves fast.
From this point on I tried to figure the movie out. Is it going to be a 90-minute situation of the turned mother feeding on people and trying to keep her son and everyone else in the dark until the final act when they all see she’s become some kind of creature? No, it doesn’t unfold like that. Clay learns fairly early she’s no longer normal after following her and Nestor one night as they hit the bad part of town for some take out. Take out in this case being a homeless guy they take into a dark alley. Clay witnesses his own mother in mild transformation (nothing as extreme as Nestor) feasting on the guts of this homeless guy. I knew I was going like this movie when Clay freaks, runs back across the street and pukes. How many horror movies can you name where someone witnesses something horrific like that and pukes at the sight of it? Not many, I bet. Puking and freaking is exactly what I think most people would do. You don’t normally see characters traumatized by the horror in horror movies.
The shot above is about as transformed as Emily gets in the entire movie. The one below is a dream sequence Clay is having, so technically that would probably be her fully transformed had she lived to become exactly what Nestor was.
It’s back at her house when the confrontation between Nestor and Clay happens that we learn a little bit more of what he is, but it’s only in the cryptic sense. Another nice touch. I like that the creature in this movie is never fully explained. It just is and the characters have to deal with it. Nestor makes some kind of cryptic statement about “…vampire, werewolves, ghouls, it’s all the same…” He refers to himself simply as a “flesh eater.” His superhuman strength is displayed by tossing Clay around the room and the fact that he cannot be killed. And that includes impaling him on crotchet needles. But fire, yeah…the great equalizer. Burn this fucker and then you’ve got him right by the ‘nads. The confrontation leads to the kitchen where Nestor is set on fire and within minutes he is reduced to ashes. So, what the fuck was he? Perhaps an amalgamation of exactly what he said, vampire, werewolf and ghoul. Whatever he was that ends the late Brion James’ participation in this flick.
- Director Patrick Rand Explains: Still curious about the nature of this beast I decided to see if director Patrick Rand was on Facebook. He was so I took the opportunity to ask him about it: “The idea was that despite tales of vampires, werewolves, ghouls and other creatures over the centuries and in different cultures, there is really just one monster. The closest parallel is Jesus or Buddha. Different cultures combine the facts as known with their own cultural beliefs. In this case, their own cultural fears.”
With Nestor gone the movie’s plot becomes what-do-you-do-when-a-loved-one-becomes-a-monster? Clay’s immediate reaction is to lock his mother in her room during the night, though with this creature hunger strikes at any hour of the night or day. She’s not at the stage Nestor was at, yet, but towards the end of the movie we learn this is a gradual metamorphosis. Emily does manage to escape and inadvertently kills an undercover cop who was posing as a homeless guy trying to catch this “L.A. ripper.” This prompts Clay to put bars on her window. Clay’s life understandably begins to suffer. He loses his job at the station and eventually loses his girlfriend after she spots him returning to his mother’s house with a hooker. For a second I thought Clay was devolving into Julia from Hellraiser (1987), selling her soul, so-to-speak, and hunting for human victims to bring home to her dear old Frank. But Clay can’t do it, It doesn’t matter, Emily gets the hooker anyway.
Its also understandable Clay starts to pique the interest of the police, after he followed his mother out that night when she accidentally killed that undercover cop. Remember that cop from Fright Night (1985), the one Charlie calls to Dandridge’s house and tries to tell him there’s a coffin in the cellar and that it belongs to a vampire? Art Evans is the actor’s name and until now I’ve never seen him in anything else. In Fright Night he played a Detective Lennox, here he plays a Lieutenant Hendrix. The names may be different, but he seems to be playing the same person. At least in this movie he’s got bigger role. He pops up every so often and is even present for the final confrontation.
There’s a couple of deaths that happen off screen. A doctor of the family and a crucial death that marks a turning point in the film. Like most victims infected with some sort of terminal monster-ism there always that point where the loved one either worries for his own safety or the safety of another. Clay worries about his pregnant wife but Emily assures him she’s not a baby killer, that was Nester, not her. But we all know as the “disease” progresses it doesn’t matter whether you’re friend or foe or loved one or stranger when the hunger strikes we’re all just flesh for the beast. Enter Clay’s sister Carla (Maray Ayres), the one offspring who isn’t around much, well she left her husband and has come back for a little while. One night, drunk, Clay comes home and stumbles into a couple of trashbags in the kitchen, bloody trashbags and upon opening one of them he finds the severed head of Carla. Yeah, Emily cannibalized her own daughter. Clay needs to kill his mother now and this all comes to a head (pun intended) in the final act where cops and ex-girlfriend converge on the house and find Emily tied to her bed. Just when it’s looking like Clay is going to be the one framed for being this “ripper of the homeless,” Emily shows her true colors and manages to kill one of the detectives and eat his guts.
This ending is about as downbeat as you can get and I’m going to go ahead and splatter it all over your faces. Emily just barely manages to come to her senses as she closes in on pregnant Alice eager to eat her fetus and then heads down to the kitchen to set herself on fire. Final scene is battered Clay (he fell from the second story window) hugging Alice, Lt. Hendrix looking mentally dazed as to what the fuck he just witnessed, while mother burns in the kitchen. Final shot is of a family picture on the wall of Emily, Carla and Clay. I thought, Jesus, two of those people in that photo are now dead and one of them cannibalized the other. Fuck!
Mom has never seen a DVD release until now. Back on June 30th MGM released it under their MGM Limited Edition (DVD-R) sub-label.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen—2.0 English Dolby Digital—no subtitles.
As far as DVD-Rs go from a major studio I thought this looked pretty damn good looking. Colors were solid and so was the clarity.
There are no extras.
If you’re like me and more familiar with Ed And His Dead Mother and ever wondered what a serious (and bloody) version of that film might look like then consider picking up Mom. I promise you won’t be disappointed.