Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SERIAL MOM (1994) (Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

Collector's Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: May 9th 2017 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: John Waters 
Cast: Justin Whalin, Kathleen Turner, Matthew Lillard, Ricki Lake, Sam Waterston, Suzanne Somers, Traci Lords, Patty Hearst

Synopsis: Beverly Sutphin is the perfect happy homemaker. Along with her doting husband Eugene and two children, Misty and Chip, she lives a life straight out of Good Housekeeping. But this nuclear family just might explode when Beverly's fascination with serial killers collides with her ever-so-proper code of ethics – transforming her from middle class mom to mass murderer! Soon, the bodies begin to pile up… and suburbia faces a horror even worse than wearing white after Labor Day.

Director John Waters (Pink Flamingos)satire of suburbia in Serial Mom (1994) has always had me in stitches, a dark and biting satire starring Kathleen Turner (Body Heat) as an suburban apple-pie baking mom named Beverly Sutphin who has a secret obsession with serial killers, a secret she had kept hidden from her loving family for years. She's married to a dentist named Eugene, played with doting naivety by Law and Order's Sam Waterston, they have two children, the college bound Misty (Ricki Lake) and horror-obsessed teenage son Chip (Matthew Lillard, SLC Punk). Beverly's killer instinct emerges as she observes what most would perceive be trivial slights, which go against her weird code of ethics, these slights include not properly recycling, stealing parking spaces, wearing white shoes after labor day, and standing up her daughter, and it all begins when her son's math teacher Mr. Stubbins questions her parenting skills during a parent-teacher conference, calling her out for allowing him to watch "sick" gore movies. She runs him down outside the school with her station wagon, a wasted stoner-chick is the only witness, and with her account of what happened the police quickly begin to piece together who the unlikely culprit is. Once she has what seems to be her initial kill out of the way she has some serious trouble staving off her murderous urges.

As the comedy roles on more people from around town end up as victims of her twisted moral compass, including a series of foul-mouthed phone calls to her friend and neighbor Dottie Hinkle (Mink Stole, Cry Baby), which are freaking hilarious, hearing Kathleen turner raspily say "pussy willow" and "cocksucker" never gets old! On her rampage Beverly kills with scissors, an air conditioners, a fire poker, and a spiced up leg of lamb, it's all great stuff. The kills are pretty campy and don't get too gory, except for her pulling someone's liver out of their body on the end a gore-strewn fire poker, which was a nice homage to the gore-films of Herschell Gordon-Lewis, whose seminal gore-film Blood Feast (1972) is showcased in the movie.

Kathleen Turner is simply wonderful in the movie, she camps it up to the perfect degree in a delightfully weird performance, chewing on the scenery and clearly having a blast with the likeable, but murderous, character. The supporting cast is also great, including Sam Waterston, who seems so out of his element in the best possible way. During an amped-up sex scene with his wife he excitedly shouts "Oh honey, you are hot tonight!", and their kids played Lillard (13 Ghosts) and Lake (TVs The Ricki Lake Show), are fun, each profiting from their mother's infamy during the trial. Justin Whalin (Child's Play 3) shows up as Chip's chronic-mastubator friend, Mink Stole (Pink Flamingos) and Mary Jo Catlett (Foul Play) as Beverly's doomed neighbors, this is just a great cast... almost forgot the infamous Patty Hearst as juror no.8! Traci Lords (Excision) even shows up, as does grunge-punk rockers L7 as the band Camel Toe, during a raucous club performance, with prop-pants featuring huge puffy pussy lips sewn into their crotches. which is sort of a thing nowadays in Japan I hear, weird. 

Audio/Video: Serial Mom (1994) debuts on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, looking crisper and sharper than my 2008 Universal DVD, see comparison shots below, but that is to be expected with the 1080p upgrade. Skin tones and colors are slightly improved, there's not a lot of depth and clarity to the image, and it can be a bit soft at times, but I think this goes back to the source. Overall this is a pleasing HD image and a nice upgrade over the standard-def releases, there's just not a lot of wow-factor. Notably, the Blu-ray image does appears to lose some minor information on the left and right of the screen. The disc includes the option of DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1, the surround is very front speaker specific for the most part, but occasionally we get some nice use of the surrounds, but for the most part this is a front heavy audio track, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we have a nice array of bonus content, Scream have ported over all the extra from the 2008 Collector's Edition DVD, including two commentaries, the original commentary with Waters from the original 1999 snapper case HBO Home Video release, and a second with Waters and Kathleen Turner from the 2008 Collector's Edition DVD. Waters is always a fun listen and both tracks are loaded. Also carried are the Making of EPK, the half-hour Serial Mom: Surreal Moments (29 min) doc with interviews from Waters, Stole, Actress Patricia Hearst, Actress Ricki Lake, Actor Matthew Lillard, Casting Director Pat Moran, Production Designer Vincent Peranio, plus The Kings Of Gore: Herschel Gordon Lewis And David Friedman (11 min) featurette, containing interviews with Waters, film critic Dennis Dermody all speaking about the influence of Herschel Gordon Lewis and Dave Friedman, whose seminal gore film Blood Feast shows up prominently in the movie. Lewis and Friedman also show up in interviews, and they're always great. The featurette doesn't have a whole lot to do with the movie Serial Mom but I loved that its here. 

The only real new brand extra is a 34 minute sit down chat with John Waters, Mink stole and Kathleen Turner seated in a living room conversing about the movie, it's fun and witty, Waters is in fine form, speaking about making the movie, how prescient it was in the months before the O.J. Simpson trial and the advent of Courtroom TV type shows. Mink Stole speaks about being intimidated by star Turner, while the star herself recalls having a blast making the movie, with Waters telling the story of how Turner single-handedly saved the movie when the studio considered not releasing it. The disc comes in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original key art and a new illustration, the new artwork also adorns the slipcover (o-ring). 

Special Features
- NEW – A Conversation With Director John Waters, Actress Kathleen Turner And Actress Mink Stole (34 min) HD 
- Serial Mom: Surreal Moments – Featuring Interviews With Waters, Stole, Actress Patricia Hearst, Actress Ricki Lake, Actor Matthew Lillard, Casting Director Pat Moran, Production Designer Vincent Peranio and More!
- Feature Commentary With John Waters And Kathleen Turner
- Feature Commentary With John Waters
- The Making Of Serial Mom – Original Promotional Featurette (6 min) 
- The Kings Of Gore: Herschell Gordon Lewis And David Friedman Featurette (11 min) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 








John Waters' exquisite taste for bad taste has rarely been better for me than right here, which is probably his most commercial work to date. His biting take on America's confusion between celebrity and infamy proved to be slightly ahead of it's time, too, this having been released just a few short months before America collectively lost it's mind during the O.J Simpson slow-motion highway pursuit and ensuing trial, a time that brought us 24-hour celebrity murder shows and networks like Court TV, truTV and the ID Network. We are still deeply entrenched in a culture that celebrates the heinous acts of others, you need look no further than America's obsession with the murder trial of Jodi Arias and the Casey Anthony, or the reality TV success of the awfulness that is the Kardashians, an entire family made famous because their father defended O.J. and one of them made a fuck tape that went viral, ugh. Anyway, Serial Mom is damn fun film, loaded with Waters' patented blend of suburban satire and dark humor, and some biting social commentary. The new disc from Scream Factory looks good and the extras are plentiful, if you're a fan this is a must-own. 4/5

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