Serial Mom (1994)

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John Waters unleashes a brand new type of killer in this dark comedy that is both bloody mad and hilarious at the same time.

Beverly Sutphin is an ordinary housewife with a tight knit family. Husband Eugene is the local dentist. Daughter Misty works at the local flea market while son Chip is the assistant manager of the local video store and a high school student. However, there is more to Beverly than everyone wants to believe. Beverly lives under a code of morality and goodness. Should anyone interfere with Beverly’s “code of morality” will have something in store for them in the mode of murdering those she finds immoral or just bad.

When Chip’s friend Scotty gets suspicious and witnesses another murder at the hands of the crazy wife and mother, he is on his way to becoming Beverly’s next victim. When Beverly is finally caught and tried for murder, she decides to defend herself. While her family is at first shocked, Chip and Misty are more than ecstatic at their mom’s actions, attempting to gain popularity. Meanwhile, Beverly must do whatever it takes to ensure she stays out of prison or face the death penalty.

This is is definitely a favorite of the Baltimore-based legend of John Waters. This could be said to be perhaps Waters’ tribute to the “King of Gore”, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis was responsible for the insane 1963 film Blood Fear (which only cost $24,500 to make) and the insane Two Thousand Maniacs in 1964. While some of Blood Feast’s infamous death scenes are shown in the film by Chip and his friends, one of the deaths in the film pays tribute to Lewis. Let’s put it this way. It involves a fire poker and a liver attached to it with Beverly grossed out at the sight of her macabre action.

Speaking of Beverly, Kathleen Turner is perfectly cast as the suburban housewife/serial killer. She brings a healthy combination of her charm, comic relief, and insanity to the role of Beverly. The charm comes when she is with her family. The comic relief comes in the form of the prank calls, which can nearly make one fall off the couch. It is so great to see the reaction of Waters veteran actress Mink Stole when Turner unleashes her comical tirades, unsuccessfully attempting to keep her morality in check.

Those who may wonder why veteran Sam Waterston is in this film will see that any good actor would try something new. Here, Waterston succeeds in the role of Eugene, Beverly’s husband who gets worried about her obsession only to support her the best he can. He brings that Ward Cleaver style of acting in the role and goes as far as get involved with getting people surfed in the concert sequence. Waterston proves here that even the best can appear in a John Waters film and succeed. Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard are great in their roles as the teenage kids who support Beverly and attempt to gain popularity from their mom’s insane actions.

Serial Mom is a fun hilarious dark comedy that brings Kathleen Turner at some of her zaniest in the role of the titular housewife. Only someone like John Waters could think of something this ingenious.

WFG RATING: A

A Savoy Pictures production in association with Polar Entertainment Company. Director: John Waters. Producers: John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov. Writer: John Waters. Cinematography: Robert M. Stevens. Editing: Janice Hampton and Erica Huggins.

Cast: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Scott Morgan, Walt MacPherson, Justin Whalin, Patricia Dunnock, Lonnie Horsey, Mink Stole, Mary Jo Catlett, John Badila, Kathy Fannon, Doug Roberts.

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