I remember the first John Waters movie I saw, which based on its rating and violent content I should never have been allowed to see at my the age of 10. However, my mother was always more concerned with what she thought I could handle rather than ratings. For example, my sister and I were allowed to see Pretty Woman very young in our lives...which a lot of parents would have objected to due to the sexual content...but Miss J and I had no idea what the sexual innuendo meant at the time so it was ok. We never repeated it, that's for sure. Anyway, mom thought this movie looked funny and she also liked Kathleen Turner...so she figured what the hell. Of course, it turned out to be something we all enjoyed as a family despite the fact that it was a horror comedy with bad language and gore. But like I said, Mom knew we could handle it. That movie was Serial Mom and to date it remains one of my all time favorites from John Waters. I often wonder if the reason mom liked it so much was because mom herself wanted to off a few of the annoying people in her life. But I digress...on to the movie.
Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) is just your average, suburban Baltimore mom. She is white, pretty, and perky and would give Donna Reed a run for her money. However, behind that sweet and wholesome smile lurks a crazed killer waiting to be unleashed. It seems that, whenever someone is rude to Beverly or her family she feels the need to take revenge on them. The first victim is Dottie Hinkle (Mink Stole) who begins receiving threatening letters and phone calls from Beverly when she steals Beverly's space at the shopping market. Then she runs down a math teacher at her son's school when he gives a bad report on him. Soon bodies are piling up right and left and soon her husband Eugine (Sam Waterston), son Chip (Matthew Lillard), and daughter Misty (Ricki Lake) are all suspecting that Beverly is off her hinge and everyone is fearing for their lives.
Serial Mom, like Polyester, is another satirical look at the abnormalities that manifest themselves within the American middle-class family. However, where Polyester was spoofing 'women's pictures' in order to push its message, Serial Mom is using the foundation of the slasher film in order to subvert clean-cut Americana. Beverly is an obvious Donna Reed clone and shows that even that image can be used to hide malice. However it is not just Beverly who is disreputable. The so-called lawabiding citizens who live around Beverly are all despicable in their own ways. Dottie Henkle is not only a parking space stealer (I HATE when people do that) but also has a foul mouth even though she claims not to. Rosemary Ackermann (Mary Jo Catlett) doesn't recycle, gossips about her neighbors, enters houses without knocking, and switches price tags on items in stores in order to cheat the retailers. One of the detectives who is investigating the case even subscribes to a magazine called "Chicks with Dicks". Beverly realizes this and uses it to her advantage to discredit the witnesses of her case and thus free herself at the end of the film. Its a rather clever way to ask the question...what crimes are the worst ones? Also, it does away with despicable characters rather than completely innocent ones...playing on our own secret desires of violence against those who annoy us. Of course, people rarely act on those impulses...but it does give us an interesting 'what if?' picture. What if someone did lash out against rude individuals? Its doubtful that they would get out of the charges like Beverly does in the end, but they still might get cheered on by the nation the way she does. Serial Mom has a few fun messages, but mostly it is just funny. There are excellent lines and performances, and a villain that you can really love. Give it a watch and see if its for you.