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Weird Watch: ‘Serial Mom’

Part of the joy of being a fan is finding odd and obscure gems that you end up falling in love with. For every Star Wars, there is a Garzey’s Wing. For every Batman, there is the Spirit. Here at Fandom, we like to go hunting for some offbeat and off-the-wall films and television shows that might just become your own secret treasures. Strap yourself in and expect the unexpected, because this week’s Weird Watch is John Waters’ 1994 dark comedy, Serial Mom. (Last week: Casino Royale)

Serial Mom is a brilliant dark comedy. The film has a huge cult following and continues to earn more fans with each generation. John Waters’ morbid satire is a twisted tale of hell in suburbia, and it all rests on the shoulders of lead actress Kathleen Turner. This Mother’s Day, hunt down Serial Mom and enjoy one of the most insane movies to ever feature a murderous and psychotic mother.

Beverly Sutphin is a seemingly normal housewife who loves her family, but might be just a little out of her mind. The movie begins like a dramatic take on real life events and follows a narrative similar to a crime reenactment. This gives Serial Mom a sense of drama especially when the third act takes place almost entirely during a criminal trial, all the while being subversive and satirical. John Waters’ script takes many jabs at common American suburban culture and pulls absolutely no punches when subjects like morals, perversity and tact are concerned.

Also, it’s a slasher movie. Kathleen Turner is at her manic best in this film, flipping the switch between happy homemaker and crazed killer without reserve. She revels in the moments when her character goes insane, and her on screen charisma is infectious. It’s hard not to love Beverly Sutphin when she’s mowing down her son’s Math teacher with her car, or dropping an air conditioner on the town jerk who doesn’t care about his dental hygiene. Even the scenes when she screams curse words during a crank call are entertaining and laugh out loud funny.

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In a way, Serial Mom is also a really good and twisted horror movie. There are tons of references to the genre when Beverly’s son Chip is on screen either talking about films like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or working in his small Baltimore video store where VHS boxes for movies like Lucio Fulci’s Zombie and Sleepaway Camp line the shelves. There are even times when scenes from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the 60s exploitation gorefest Blood Feast are shown. The true horror buff status of Chip and his girlfriend Birdie is well established early on in the story, but when the real blood starts to flow and the local townsfolk start dropping like flies, things go from being fun to seriously dangerous very fast.

This movie actually has a pretty hefty body count and quite a bit of gore to boot. I always found it funny that “Serial Mom” marks her victims by their unethical and crass behaviors. Beverly kills for reasons that range from not buckling up behind the wheel to refusing to rewind rental tapes before returning them to the store. There are a lot of really enjoyable moments in the film and some of the scenes are so absurd and weird that it’s hard not to laugh at how jaded it all is. When it comes down to it, Serial Mom is not for everyone, but it works like gangbusters for the select few who can lock into its style of comedy and satire.

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Read more in our regular Weird Watch series here.


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