“Hell hath no fury like a mother.”
A loose remake of a somewhat infamous 1980 horror movie [rejected by the BBFC and as yet unreleased in the UK], this is a nastily brutal and effective home-invasion story, with a maternal angle that’s both surprising and well done. On the run after a botched bank robbery, the three Koffin brothers end up in the wrong home, and end up with a houseful of hostages, who were visiting Beth Sohapi (King) and her husband. The criminals call on the rest of their family for help, led by their mother (De Mornay), who is 50% June Cleaver – even providing cake and ice-cream for the residents – and 50% Lizzie Borden, showing absolutely no restraint against anyone she perceives as threatening her brood. As the night progresses, a lot of skeletons come out and we discover the Sohapis definitely do not live up to their name…
What looks initially like another variant on the Last House on the Left takes an abrupt left-turn when Mrs. Koffin shows up. From there on, De Mornay holds the viewer’s attention with an effortless performance which makes you wonder where she has been for the last 20 years. There are certainly echoes of her character from The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, but I’m also reminded, in tone, of Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom. What I think is particularly disturbing is her rapid switch from homespun family wisdom to violence of a particularly cruel sort – and not just physical, but mental, as she is generally astute when it comes to pushing her victim’s buttons. I say “generally,” for Beth provides an opponent that even Mrs. Koffin can’t necessarily read accurately. It’s clear, almost from the start, that this will be heading towards a confrontation between the two.
At 112 minutes, it could seem long, but I can’t say my attention flagged at any point. If there is a criticism, it’s the not uncommon one for the genre, of characters who have to exhibit “stupidity necessary to the plot.” There were certainly points at which Chris rolled her eyes as the victims did not behave in the way she would have; I tend to find how much that impacts my appreciation depends on how blatant that is, and how much I’m enjoying the other aspects of the film. Here, watching De Mornay is so entertaining – I’m hard pushed to think of many comparable, deliciously villainous performances from an actress – that I’m happy to overlook those flaws. I’ve seen and enjoyed other home invasion films, like The Strangers; this takes a very different approach, replacing those faceless monsters with a twisted version of humanity. In some ways, it may be even more effective.
Dir: Darren Lynn Bousman
Star: Rebecca De Mornay, Jaime King, Briana Evigan, Patrick Flueger