Movie title: Serial Mom (1994)

Director(s): John Waters

Actor(s): Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston , Ricki Lake , Matthew Lillard , Justin Whalin , Traci Lords

Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Crime

  • Movie
    (4)
  • Video
    (4.5)
  • Audio
    (4)
  • Extras
    (4)
4.1

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The brainchild of John Waters, impresario of bad taste, and transgressive art, Serial Mom is probably the easiest of his films for average Americans to relate to. Most mothers are overly protective of their kids, right?   

In many respects, Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) is the perfect 1950’s mom. Living in the suburbs of Baltimore, with her dentist husband, Eugene (Sam Waterston) and there teenaged children, Misty (Ricki Lake) and Chip (Matthew Lillard). She loves her family dearly, and works hard to make sure each of their needs is met. She is active in the PTA, and makes sure everyone has a good breakfast before starting the day.

Unfortunately, for those outside Beverly’s immediate circle, she has a bad temper. say something negative, or uncomplimentary to one of her kids, and she won’t think twice about running you over, or impaling you with a new fireplace poker. BE CAREFUL! It quickly becomes apparent that Beverly is a serial killer. She doesn’t kill for the thrill of it. Beverly has a moral code; she kills people who aren’t following the rules, or have broken the law. If you’re not a good teacher or don’t buckle up your seatbelt, you will die. Stand up your date or wear white after Labor Day? Beverly will kill you.

Serial Mom serves as an indictment of an American society obsessed with true crime, and the tendency to grant mass murderers a strange kind of celebrity status. Beverly is eventually caught, and becomes an overnight sensation. It’s a media frenzy as Beverly decides to defend herself. Friends such as Dottie (Mink Stole) try to help Beverly out, but her testimony is so over the top! Seeing a chance to cash in, Beverly’s kids sell “Serial Mom” souvenirs outside the courtroom during her murder trial. When there not selling something, the kids are doing television interviews. Who cares if their mother is a murderer? They are getting their fifteen minutes of fame. Even Suzanne Sommers turns up to sign on for the inevitable movie…

Somehow, Waters, who wrote the script, has made Beverly relatable to a point. We probably all experienced anger when someone gets that last parking spot, or stands us up for a date. The difference, though? We get over it without taking someone’s life. Beverly has two personalities that are at odds with each other. One is the soccer mom, who loves cooking breakfast for her kids in the morning. The other side is cold, erratic, and murderous, despite the kitchen apron and pearls.

Serial Mom is an excellent piece of satire, and Kathleen Turner’s portrayal of Beverly Sutphin is one of the best performances of her career. Turner switches from one emotion to another with frightening ease. Of course, in the hands of John Waters it’s comical too, as he’s not afraid to make Beverly likable despite her ‘murderous tendencies.’

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this Scream Factory Collector’s Edition features a strong 1080p transfer. Detail looks really good a lot of the time, but there are moments when detail  looks a tad cloudy. Depth is just slightly above average. There’s just enough spacing between the foreground, and the background for natural movements, and only a slight jitter during quick motion. Skin tones appear natural, and consistent. Facial details such as wrinkles, moles, dried blood, etc., are apparent, and look realistic. I did notice some slight smoothness in medium shots.

Serial Mom offers a DTS-HD 2.0 track, as well as a solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, even if the film doesn’t necessarily exploit all that a track like that has to offer. There’s a nice balance of sound effects, vocals, and scoring; they are woven together so one never interferes with the other. Effects sound full throughout, with a nice level of layering. The subwoofer contributes a nice level of bass, adding necessary umph to effects and music when necessary. The surround sound is rather front heavy, though the rear speakers are called in to action during the more active sequences. Front channels provide an accurate representation of character placement on the screen. Dialogue is clean, clear, and concise throughout.

English subtitles are included.

The following extras have been ported over from previous releases unless otherwise noted:

  • Audio Commentary with Writer / Director John Waters and Actor Kathleen Turner: Waters and Turner have a fun and informative chat as discuss nearly every scene, touching on the script, the satirical elements, the characters, the other actors, and the experience of working together. This is a great track, and highly recommend for fans of the film.
  • Audio Commentary with Writer / Director John Waters: More technical in nature, Waters offers some details about how the film was shot, etc. He also offers his thoughts on the political and social climate in the film. Well worth a listen.
  • The Making of Serial Mom (SD, 6:06) An EPK made during the filming of the movie. Features brief remarks from John Waters and various members of the cast and crew. There are also clips from the movie.
  • Serial Mom: Surreal Moments (HD, 29:06) Fun retrospective documentary from the previous DVD release, that features interviews with all of the cast, except Kathleen Turner.
  • The Kings of Gore: Herschel Gordon Lewis and David Friedman (HD, 11:26) A discussion of how the film Blood Feast (look for it to come up in the movie), influenced John Waters work here,
  • NEW! In Conversation (HD, 34:27) Features John Waters, Kathleen Turner, and Mink Stole. They sit together and discuss the film. Specifically, they look back at the shoot, the locations, challenges, cast members, and more.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:28)