Happy Mother’s Day weekend, Enemaniacs.
It’s not too often that I actually do themed articles based on calendar dates. Sure, I try to do something horror related for Friday the 13th (keep your eyes peeled for that for next week, my lovelies). I try to be mindful of Christmas and New Year’s, and I definitely ALWAYS do something related to Halloween and October as a whole usually being focused on horror. When it comes to Fourth of July or St. Patty’s Day or Arbor Day… Well, I kind of drop the ball.
So, with this week’s article, this is the very first time I’m doing something Mother’s Day related with the 1995 thriller Mommy!
Now, we all love our moms, right guys? Depending on your age, they may have been a constant presence in your life – being there to wake you up for school every morning to cooking you breakfast to being there at home when you got off the school bus to tucking you in at night. If you’re one of the older Enemaniacs, I bet that’s the case. If you’re a little younger, then you may not have necessarily had all of that because your mom maybe had to work just like your dad did. Regardless, your mom probably tried to instill warmth, caring, virtue, and love into your lives. They were the nurturer who was always there to kiss your boo boos when you fell down on the playground or cut the crust off your sandwiches if you were one of those weirdos that had bread crust issues.
My point is, it’s hard to hate your mom if you are a boy. Shit, the old adage is that guys typically try to find a mate that has some of the same qualities as their mothers. That said, I was lucky enough to have two great parents who are always there for me. Even now, as I transition into the part of my life in which that other adage comes to light of the parents now becoming the children and all that jazz. Media tends to depict fathers (and stepfathers in particular) to be much more the aggressor. However, there are a couple movies in which “Mother” is a heck of a scary figure in the life of a child.
Obviously, the first to come to mind is Psycho. Ol’ Norman Bates sure was inflicted with a multitude of mommy issues. Sometimes mothers make their presence felt as darker or more of a problem in the case of mother-in-laws, but that typically is for comedic effect. Outside of Psycho, three other mother focused thrillers and horrors come to mind – Mom from 1991 and Mommy, which we’re about to dig into.
The third is Mother’s Day… Why didn’t I do that movie for this week? Well, I kind of fucked this one up, boys and girls!
Now, when it comes to Mommy, I best remember this as being something that I saw quite often on the shelves of the video store I worked at between 1995 and 1999 (I’d say 2000 but I think I quit on New Year’s Day 2000 so… doesn’t count). Interestingly, it didn’t come out in May of 1995 on video. It didn’t come out in October of 1995 when horror movies from earlier in the year would or fresh, new re-releases of old horror movies or straight-to-video movies would. Nope, Mommy made its video premiere at the end of November of 1995, after Thanksgiving. I feel like it missed multiple boats.
I mostly remember a couple things. First, it was something that felt like one of those cheap-o direct-to-video exploitation thrillers of the age. Like it was trying to ape on The Stepfather a little bit. But, I will give it to the very basic and straightforward look of the box. It was a mostly black box with “Mommy” written in chalk like font with a frowny face in the O, and Patty McCormack’s kind of ghostly head as the primary focal point. She was looking down at a little girl, not exactly menacingly, but not exactly in a less-than-scary way either. Let’s put it this way, when this came across my radar again, thanks to the Kings of Horror YouTube Channel, I immediately remembered the box art for the movie.
What I did not realize is that this movie, while on the surface having a memorable box but kind of not extraordinary enough to make me want to watch it, actually has some pedigree to it and some decent reviews to back it up.
There are two key figures associated with the movie. First, the director, Max Allan Collins. He is a noted mystery writer. There are a handful of mystery and crime drama series that he did with characters like Eliot Ness, Nathan Heller, and even Dick Tracy. He also has some pretty significant comic book and graphic novel credits to his name across a handful of publishers including Marvel and DC.
He’s done a ton of novelizations of movies too. That’s always an interesting genre of novels to me. Novelizations often would explore things that were either cut out of the finished movie or something that existed in an earlier version of the script that got re-written or simply written out of the final shooting script. You can often find an alternative version of a movie resting in the pages of its novelization. This film would be Collins’ first of six credits for directing, however, he’s got some writing credits, none more important than being the writer of the graphic novel Road to Perdition that became an Academy Award-nominated film. For this film, Collins used his hometown of Muscatine, Iowa for the setting of Mommy.
The other significant person in this movie is our star, our Mommy, if you will – Patty McCormack. McCormack has a pretty long list of credits over the course of 70 years of acting. She’s done pretty big TV shows like The Sopranos and a ton of other popular series. Most significantly, though, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 11 (probably among the youngest nominees ever) for playing little Rhoda Penmark in the movie The Bad Seed. Little Rhoda was a serial killer and psychopath. She would look sweet with her little pigtails and pink dress, but then probably fucking kill you to get something she wants. It was baked into the character from the William March novel of the same name that she inherited her “evil” from her maternal grandmother who also was a serial killer.
That role was so memorable that it probably followed McCormack around for years. But, interestingly, it helps inform her performance in this film as Mrs. Sterling. So much so that her performance as the titular matriarch is mostly what is cited by critics of the time as a worthy reason to watch this movie. Some, like Leonard Maltin, even thinking that this is, more or less, an unofficial sequel to The Bad Seed. Basically, little Rhoda grew up to become Mrs. Sterling and is still killing people. It is rare for mainstream critics to praise much from a mid-90s straight-to-video thriller. Hell, it’s rare for critics to widely praise thrillers of any kind. Mommy breaks through that a bit.
But… Let’s be the judge of that for ourselves, what say you, Enemaniacs?
As the credits reveal themselves to me, I’m pleasantly surprised by some of the other names in this cast. First up, Max Allan Collins got famed crime novelist Mickey Spillane to appear in this. Spillane is best known for creating the character Mike Hammer. I can see Collins wanting this guy in the movie. He’s also playing a guy named Eckhardt, and all I can think of is the guy in Tim Burton’s Batman movie. Also, we have Jason Miller. Miller, of course, is the Oscar-nominated actor from The Exorcist and the dad of Joshua John Miller from Teen Witch. I also saw the name Brinke Stevens and she’s one of the 80s great scream queens. We’ve had her appear in a couple movies on the blog before. Lastly, Nurse Chapel from Star Trek herself, Majel Barrett. So, yeah, lots of recognizable people in the movie!
The movie opens with a whole bunch of kids spilling out of the school and getting on the bus to go home for the day. One girl, Jessica Ann Sterling, played by first-time and local Iowan actress Rachel Lemieux, does not appear as excited to go home as the other kids. You see, some kids run to the bus. Some kids embrace their mommy and daddy in the pickup zone in front of the school. Considering the song under the credits talk about how “daddy will come home to stay” this time and what have you, it… seems like Jessica Ann is having some issues at home.
As the bus pulls away, Mommy is waiting for her and wanting to have a word with Jessica Ann’s teacher. You see, Jessica Ann was passed over for a student award. Mommy is not pleased. After all, Jessica Ann not only had perfect attendance but she also has better grades than the student the teacher picked. Also, Mommy is a bit of a racist and/or xenophobe because she says the boy who won is a Mexican.
Mommy might just be a Karen.
Jessica Ann begs Mommy to not embarrass you. She tells Jessica Ann to go out to the playground while she has a conversation with the teacher, Majel Barrett. Majel gives Mommy a little shade by telling her that she’s going to finish decorating for the spring festival and that Mommy has no fuckin’ business knowing Eduardo’s grades in comparison to Jessica Ann’s.
Majel goes on to say that while Jessica Ann has great grades and is a wonderful student, the award might just mean more to someone like Eduardo because he could use the positive reinforcement a little more than someone who naturally comes to their good grades and what have you. Now, like I said, Mommy is a bit of a Karen, right? She kind of has a haircut and clothing and demeanor of one. She also has a response like one too. Mommy thinks that Jessica Ann is being “punished” because she’s white and comes from a good family.
This movie is over 25 years old and Majel Barrett is using terms like “person of color” and acknowledging how someone of color excels despite some setbacks that a little white girl or boy faces, it’s actually quite an achievement. These are things that are conversations here, today, in 2022. This sociology and the comparisons of how certain groups of people could excel or be disadvantaged is nothing new. This movie is from the mid-90s and it knew these conditions existed in just about any American school district – even in the middle of nowhere in Iowa.
Is this movie a “woke”? Are we supposed to side with Mommy who is trying to muscle a teacher into giving her kid an award over some kid who is Mexican because she’s white and this supposed asshole of a teacher (who is totally a Starfleet medical officer) is giving the person of color an advantage because of George Soros or some such shit?
Look, my point is, I’m fucking sick and tired of people trying to talk about how everything has suddenly become woke [or insert some other online bullshit term here] because it wants to talk about things that are kind of uncomfortable to confront. This movie was released in November 1995. I was already out of high school. I ALSO knew how disadvantaged many brown and black kids in my class were too. This movie ABSOLUTELY knows this too and is constructing this WASPy Mommy to try to take advantage of this system.
Majel Barrett tells Mommy to fuck off. As you should. She is right to tell Mommy that she’s setting a poor example for her daughter. Majel turns around to finish putting up the decorations. So Mommy tosses over the ladder, causing Majel to fall to her death. She comes out to tell Jessica Ann that a terrible accident has occurred. Patty McCormack is amazing in this scene. She just flatly explains there’s been an accident and Majel Barrett is dead. Her daughter is breaking down and sad over the death of a teacher she really liked. Mommy is just obviously calculating how she is going to talk and act about this. She even later tells Jessica Ann that people die and it’s just a natural fact of life.
Jessica does question how natural it is when someone falls off a ladder. Mommy thinks she’s taking a smarty tone with her. She’s not, but it’s a good question. Mommy is thinking ahead. She says that there are more deaths that happen around scenarios in which there are things like ladders or other things used commonly at home and so on.
Enter Lt. March who arrives at the scene. March is played by Jason Miller. He’s a homicide detective and no one thinks he should be here because there’s been no murder. Lt. March has other thoughts. He interviews Mommy for some time. Jessica Ann says that Mr. March sure seems grumpy. Eventually, March is happy enough with the story Mommy has to tell. He lets her go. Next up, is the girl who was mopping the floors in the hall way when Mommy and Jessica Ann were heading to Majel Barrett’s classroom. Mommy was a cunt to her too so I’m guessing she’ll have something interesting to say.
On the way home, Jessica Ann explains some things about her home life. She’s been living in a nice house in the nice part of town for two years. That started when Mommy married an older man. Apparently, that older man appeared to have money. She overheard Mommy telling Aunt Beth that her stepdad wasn’t really as rich as it seemed. He had money wrapped up in other things. And speaking of Aunt Beth…
Aunt Beth is played by Brinke Stevens. Beth has been around a lot more recently since she divorced Uncle Bob. Apparently, Aunt Beth is really cool according to Jessica Ann. I’m guessing she’s a lot cooler than Mommy.
Jessica Ann isn’t really feeling dinner, and Aunt Beth agrees that maybe she’s not up for it. After all, she did find out her favorite teacher died just a little bit ago. When Mommy basically forces Jessica Ann to eat, Mommy snaps at Beth to never contradicts her ever again. That night, Beth talks to Jessica Ann about Majel Barrett and how her real daddy died in an accident. Also, it seems like Mommy doesn’t even seem to miss either of her dead husbands. Beth explains that Mommy is a little bit of a different type of person. She doesn’t feel things like other people do. She was the favored daughter of four kids. Beth and Mommy’s grandparents spoiled her. She tells Jessica Ann to always remember that her Mommy loves her in her own way.
There is a positive male presence in Jessica’s life, though – Mark. He tells her about how his surrogate father, his scout leader, died when he was young. He seemingly wants to be good to her and understanding. He’s a business owner and apparently Mommy’s latest target in her career of being a black widow. Jessica Ann would like Mommy to marry Mark because she could see herself calling him “Daddy”.
Mark also witnesses how incredibly strong Mommy’s hands are when she opens a jar that neither Beth or Mark could open. She then suggests that he not cross her. Red flag, bro!
The next day, Jessica Ann is called to the principal’s office. Young, hot janitor girl, Jolene, confronts the little girl and she tells the little girl there are coppers who want to talk to her. Indeed, Jolene is a little smart on the fact that Mommy might have done something shitty.
Lt. March is waiting for Jessica Ann. He tries being nice and making friends with Jessica Ann, but she’s a little rigid around him. She won’t accept candy from him because, at first, he’s a stranger. Then, when he suggests they be friends, she says she can’t have the candy because it rots the teeth. Stonewalled, March gets right to it. He talks to Jessica Ann about the accident. Jessica Ann understands that her teacher died. He says that it’s a little peculiar that she died of a broken neck.
Jessica Ann says that she would have a broken neck if she fell off a ladder. He says that the medical examiner thinks the broken neck happened from a pair of hands. Jessica Ann remembers the night before when her Mommy opened that jar. March then says that the plaque for the student award is missing. He thinks Jessica Ann might be able to find that plaque.
Jessica Ann gets angry and says if he has any other questions, he needs to speak to her mother first.
After school, Jessica Ann tells Mommy that Lt. March called her to the office to talk about Majel Barrett. She also talks about Jolene confronting her. Mommy takes a sip of her instant coffee and winces saying she hates that stuff. She’s going to go to the store and get some fresh ground coffee. She wants Jessica Ann to stay home and finish her homework and she’ll be back later with a video for her to watch.
Naturally, Mommy has other plans that include the hot janitor. Jolene asks if Mommy has permission to be in the school after hours. Mommy says another very Karen thing – “I’m a taxpayer. I don’t NEED your permission.” Guys… This was 25 years ago and there are multiple lines in this movie that feel like they are ripped from YouTube videos from last week. Jolene almost asks for hush money, but they are interrupted by someone else in the halls. When she turns to complete her request, Mommy is suddenly gone.
At home, Jessica Ann starts to think about that award that’s gone missing. She decides to snoop around to see if she can find it. Woopsie daisy… Jessica Ann finds it in Mommy’s panties drawer. Mommy is not yet home and it’s quite dark outside. No, she’s waiting for the perfect chance to kill the hot janitor. She finds her chance by shutting off the fuse box and making the janitor go to the boiler room to turn it back on. When she does, someone (totally Mommy) douses her with water and throws the bucket at her, causing Jolene to fall back into the electrical stuff and getting fried.
I kind of feel like this will only draw more of Lt. March’s attention.
Jessica Ann’s having a little bit of a crisis while Mommy is out killing hot janitors. She’s beginning to think some pretty troubling thoughts. What exactly happened to her real daddy that day her and Mommy went out on that boating trip? Did something happen to her stepfather? Did Mommy kill her favorite teacher? The next day, the students are told about Jolene’s death. Jessica Ann wonders if she is to blame for her death by telling Mommy about the whole thing that happened at school. She’s now worried about Mark.
There’s very clearly something going on with Jessica Ann. Mark says bye to her as he and Mommy go out on a date, but she’s pretty meh in response. Also, Aunt Beth knows something is eating away at the little girl. Mark is beginning to pick up on something. For the last week, she’s seemingly snubbing him. Mommy thinks that it might just be jealousy because the more he’s been around, the likely it is that Jessica Ann has a little girl crush on him.
Mark goes to the bathroom and finds Lt. March. Turns out Mark is undercover or possibly even living under protection. March thinks he’s getting too close because Mark isn’t so fast to believe that Mommy has killed two people. What’s more, March reminds Mark that there’s a little girl involved. He needs to get to the bottom of this whole thing as fast as possible. That night, Mark gets a beeper message and he calls back and angrily scolds whoever it is on the other end.
That call was overheard by Jessica Ann. He goes to the little girl’s room to talk to her about how she’s been acting lately. She tells Mark that she wanted to chase him away. She likes him too much. She’s worried about her darker thoughts about how Mommy might have killed a long string of people and she doesn’t want that to happen to Mark too. Mark reveals the truth about how he is investigator looking into the death of her stepfather. He tells her that he thinks Mommy is, indeed, a murderer. She is a sick person and she needs help.
Jessica is a bit shook by this revelation.
She’s not sure what to think. Mark is investigating Mommy. Mark does not love Mommy, even though their dating was kind of an accident. He knows what he did wasn’t very nice, but he had to do this. He begs Jessica Ann to help him with some things she’s seen that might help reveal her Mommy’s guilt.
In an excellent jump scare, Mommy comes busting in, tells Jessica Ann to close her eyes and…
So yeah, Mark’s been dispatched with a couple bullets in his chest. Jessica Ann explains to us in voice over that she only remembers Mommy crying at her daddy’s funeral and maybe at Mr. Sterling’s funeral, but the second one might have been fake. Downstairs, Mommy says they have to call the police now. They have to tell a story that sounds good about what happened tonight. She tells Jessica Ann that Mark did bad “bedroom things” to her tonight. When she heard Mark in her bedroom, well, Mommy was worried that he was going to do the same bad things to her and he had to protect her little girl.
Jessica Ann doesn’t want to lie to the police, but Mommy says that maybe she doesn’t have to – just let her take care of it all.
Naturally, this brings Lt. March into the situation. He tells Aunt Beth that Mommy is quite the woman. Beth thinks that maybe March doesn’t believe Mommy. She says that she believes Mommy because she’s her sister. March suggests that maybe Jessica Ann should stay with Beth. Beth asks if Jessica Ann told the truth about what happened. She says that every kid is scared of her parents. Beth thinks maybe March is right.
The next day, March questions both Mommy and Jessica Ann. They are questioned together and separately. March is onto the fact that she’s been widowed twice. Naturally, lawyer Mickey Spillane finds a lot of the questions to be inappropriate. When March asks Jessica Ann if Mark ever made an advance toward her. She says no, but Mommy thought so because he was in her bedroom in his pajamas in the middle of the night. Mickey Spillane says this is going to not let up anytime soon – especially with the intensity of Lt. March.
So Mommy decides it’s time to get the fuck outta Dodge with Jessica Ann. Jessica Ann notices that Mommy has already gotten rid of the missing plaque she found previously. That’s because Mommy is definitely not a fool. She knows that was something March was looking for and he’s getting a little too close.
After a couple hours on the road, Mommy decides they need to bed down for the night. They opt for a shady motel and not the kind of fancy hotel they normally stay at when on vacation. Jessica Ann falls asleep while Mommy stays up all night thinking about her next move. Jessica Ann has a dream of Mark, bullet wounds and all, reminding Jessica that Mommy is sick and needs help. Then an excellent shot of Jessica Ann’s eyes popping open while Mommy sits behind her ominously.
Mommy says that sometimes mommies have to make hard decisions. Mommy thinks that Jessica Ann is asleep, but, of course, she was not. Jessica Ann flips out and runs away just as Mommy closes in and appears to attempting to strangle her. Jessica Ann runs out of the motel room by jumping out of the bathroom window. She makes it across a field and into a junkyard.
Can I just say that Jessica Ann is a super smart little girl? Before taking off out the window, she remembered to put on her slippers. That’s super smart! She’s not going to run through a field or in the street or into a junkyard barefoot. Only dummies would do that.
Jessica thinks she’s able to shake Mommy by hiding in the back of a car, but Mommy was waiting behind that car. Holy shit, Patty McCormack is scary in this scene. I mean, LOOK at this face!
Lucky for Jessica Ann, a junkyard dog is here to get these intruders. The dog attacks after Mommy pushes Jessica Ann aside in one final act of parenting. The dog messes Mommy up pretty good. It seems as though maybe the dog kills the murderer, but no. it is Mommy who killed the dog. Mommy asks Jessica Ann who loves her more than anything else, then she begins to go for her daughter’s throat, but can’t bring herself to do it. March shows up with Beth. He was going to kill Mommy, but Jessica Ann asks him to not, so she is taken by Aunt Beth while March arrests Mommy.
March asks Mommy why she hesitated to kill the only person who could testify against her. Mommy responds, “For a moment there, in the moonlight… she looked like me.” Goddamn that is chilling.
This is an excellent movie. Patty McCormack is about as scary a thriller villain as you can find. Some of her line delivery in this movie is downright frightening. In other times, her complete separation from what she’s done is delivered with kind of a dark, biting snark that is just great.
What I found even more compelling is the young actress Rachel Lemieux. She had to carry a BUNCH of this movie’s load. She does so in three ways. First, she has to read her lines. That’s not easy for anyone to do. Shit, have you guys seen B-Movie Enema: The Series? I can barely read the lines I write for myself! So, yeah, she’s gotta do the bare minimum in terms of acting by reading those lines. She does a really good, and believable job. You can hear her emotions. You know when she’s unsure about what’s going on. You know in the first scene that she’s worried about Mommy embarrassing her. You know she’s actually happier with Aunt Beth because you can hear it.
But along with that, she also provides voice over throughout the movie. You can hear what she’s thinking about with everything going on around her. Voice over is tricky. It can sometimes sound flat. Sometimes it’s designed to be flat, but there are times in which little inflictions in the voice can reveal a lot of things. Lemieux pulls that off nicely. You can tell this was written by a mystery writer because of that voice over, but it really shifts the focus away from this terribly unlikable Karen of a mother to this sweet little girl and she carries it without coming off, at all, like a twerp.
Thirdly, though, she could physically act. She had to do some things with her face in her performance. Acting with one’s face is incredibly difficult to nail even for adults. But when you can do it right, it can say so much in a scene. Lemieux knocks this out of the park in the scene she needed to – the one in which she and Mark are talking about who he really is and what he’s doing in her life. It’s an amazing job. She has to show a slight disdain for him while trying to keep up the act of trying to push him away. Then that shifts into genuine love for him when she can’t keep it up any longer. But finally it turns to a look of someone who is deeply betrayed by finding out the truth. She nails it. That’s not the only scene either. She has a couple scenes with Jason Miller and one with Brinke Stevens that she has to reveal deeper concerns simply through her expressions. It’s so good.
Guys, this is top tier B-Movie Enema business right here. This is a really good movie that I recommend you go to YouTube right now, look up Kings of Horror and find Mommy and watch it. I know there is a sequel out there and I just so happen to have it, so… I guess we’re going to try to do this Mother’s Day article at least one more year? I’m open for it. Patty McCormack and Rachel Lemieux are back in that, so, let’s do it this time next year!
But, let’s wrap things up for this article. You should be made aware that tomorrow is the Season 3 premiere of B-Movie Enema: The Series! How are we kicking things off? Well, it’s the women in prison classic The Big Doll House! It’s a real good flick and I’m real excited for everyone to watch it with me. The best way to watch would be to, first, follow B-Movie Enema on Facebook and Twitter. That way, you can find out when the episodes drop. But then, subscribe to B-Movie Enema on YouTube and Vimeo. There, you can watch the episodes. If you have a Roku, download the free B-Movie Enema channel and watch everything there as well! While you’re there at Roku getting channels, get OtherWorlds TV too! My show is there on Sunday afternoons and they show lots of fun and good flicks with hosts on the weekends.
Next Friday, we’ve got another B-Movie Enema article and whoo boy is it gonna be epic. You see, next Friday is Friday the 13th. That means I gotta do a Friday the 13th movie! I have talked about my favorite (Part VI) and I’ve talked about a fan-made film (Part X). I guess I should do the most talked about and made fun of one, so join me next week for Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan…