The perils of buying foreclosed properties are made painfully clear in “Mother’s Day,” loosely based on Charles Kaufman’s 1980 Troma film of the same name. Undistinguished apart from Rebecca De Mornay’s performance as an unhinged mama, pic centers around a yuppie couple whose suburban home is invaded by the severely dysfunctional family that recently lived there. Grisly pic from Darren Lynn Bousman (director of the second, third and fourth “Saw” movies) is at last hitting some European screens following a tour of horror fests, but with no domestic release in sight, ancillary reps its best chance for bloody dividends.
After a hospital-set prologue in which a baby is snatched by a woman clad in nurse’s uniform, pic cuts to the suburban home of Daniel (Frank Grillo) and Beth Sohapi (Jaime King), who are hosting a party for seven of their friends. In stumble the Koffin brothers — Ike (Patrick Flueger), Addley (Warren Kole) and heavily bleeding Johnny (Matt O’Leary) — seeking refuge after a botched bank robbery. Since the men had recently been incommunicado with their mother (Rebecca De Mornay) and sister Lydia (Deborah Ann Woll), who both soon arrive on the scene, they don’t realize that their old house has new occupants.
Brisk setup economically primes audience to expect the usual carnage, as guests variously fight back or meekly accept what’s coming to them. The sole relatively original element in Scott Milam’s script comes courtesy of the mother character, played with soft-spoken fortitude by De Mornay; vigorously taking charge of the messy situation, she chides eldest son Ike for his mishandling, reproaches loose cannon Addley for his uncivil treatment of his hostages, and comforts poor baby Johnny.
Cowed Lydia, evidently kept on a tight leash by the family matriarch, catches the sympathetic interest of guest George (Shawn Ashmore), a doctor ordered to tend to Johnny. Stakes are raised when it emerges that the Koffin sons had been mailing cash to their family at this address: Ma needs the money to get her children safely across the border. (An impending tornado is less effectively exploited.)
Beth and Ike go out on a cash-finding mission, providing a welcome break from the home-invasion setting, and cuing up a nice cat-and-mouse setpiece at a dry-cleaner shop. Along the way, however, pic’s uncertainty of tone becomes apparent. Most of the action unfolds in a vaguely recognizable real world, but when a nervous Beth is disturbed at an ATM by two young women who realize something’s wrong, “Mother’s Day” devolves into the sort of sadistic game-playing that would be more at home in the “Saw” movies with which Bousman established his reputation.
In general, any scene that doesn’t involve the quietly scary, evidently psychotic Mrs. Koffin represents screen time wasted. This latest addition to the Hollywood canon of really bad parents is the film’s only memorable character.
Tech credits are all fine, although some of the individual action elements lack clarity. Epilogue, featuring a second baby-snatching, sets up a possible sequel, should the market require one.