Home Sweet Home – Rediscovering ‘Serial Mom’ (US 1994 – 95 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - September 04, 2015
Home Sweet Home – Rediscovering ‘Serial Mom’ (US 1994 – 95 mins)

I’ve never sampled the early outrageous films of John Waters, but I’ve always loved his more mainstream movie ‘Serial Mom’. I think it’s a wonderfully wacky comedy of a suburban housewife who takes extreme action against those who upset her perfectly ordered family life.

Cheerful housewife Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) appears to have it all. A loving dentist husband Eugene (Sam Waterston), and teenagers Chip and Misty (Matthew Lillard & Ricki Lake). However, woe betides anybody who upsets her family in any way, for Beverly has no qualms about offing those who do. After a spate of horrific murders, with both neighbours, teachers and complete strangers being dispatched of, it’s not long before the police catch up with Beverly’s killing spree, which she sees as revenge for upsetting her perfect world.

Using the common perception that most serial killers appear to be everyday people who rarely stand out as murderous types, John Waters could not have chosen a more seemingly loving protagonist than Beverly Sutphin. Giving one of her best performances, Kathleen Turner is excellent as the loving wife and mother, and is at times wonderfully over-the-top without being hammy. A terrific dramatic actor, Sam Waterston has a rare foray into comedy and looks suitably scared as he slowly realises that his wife may not be who she appears. Ricki Lake is very good as the likable Misty, while a pre-‘scream’ Matthew Lillard is also good as a gore-loving movie buff who learns to cash in on his mom’s notoriety. John Waters regular Mink Stole shows up as one of Turner’s victims, and Traci Lords has a fun cameo at a flea market, which features a hilarious nod to cult comedian Don Knotts.

There are many memorable moments in the movie, but one that always makes me laugh is where an elderly neighbour and soon-to-be-victim is at home watching ‘Annie’, singing along to “Tomorrow” while making her dog lick her feet. A vengeful Beverly is about to knife her to death but then spots a large cooked joint of meat, and decides to beat her to death with that instead. The climactic courtroom scene is often hilarious, as Beverly conducts her own defence and cleverly exposes the sleazy secrets of the seemingly innocent witnesses. The climax also features funny cameos from Suzanne Somers and real-life kidnap victim and heiress Patricia Hearst.

As usual with John Waters there are plenty of fun movie references to spot, as well as clips from such cult classics as ‘Blood Feast’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Waters also takes a swipe at the media’s obsession with serial killers and includes a funny scene of Chip operating a merchandising stall outside the court during Beverly’s trial.

Tame by Waters standards, ‘Serial Mom’ is a fast moving gem that may be in my comedy top 10. I think it’s a delirious treat from start to finish and another film that I never tire of watching. Here, John Waters managed to make a bad taste movie feel good to watch.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *