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Craig's Movie Club
Movie Reviews

Spotlight on: Max Allan Collins's Mommy

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Max Allan Collins's Mommy

What if "the bad seed" grew up and had a daughter of her own? That's the question posed by this thriller written and directed by mystery novelist Max Allan Collins. Mommy stars Patty McCormack (Oscar-nominated as a young girl for her chilling role in the classic film The Bad Seed as a mother who will do anything for her daughter, Jessica Ann (Rachel Lemieux) ... including murder.

The acting is surprisingly good. Lemieux more than pulls her own weight with a subtlely layered performance (and narration) that truly carries the film. McCormack rightly plays it straight, even in the scenes of black humor, and it is obvious that her character truly loves her daughter, even if she shows it in unconventional ways. Also, keep an eye out for Sarah Jane Miller's scene-stealing performance as Miss Jones, the cocky, know-it-all janitor.

Parallels between Mommy and The Bad Seed are deliberate and fun for film fans, as are references to other horror films like The Shining and Halloween. Collins does well by his actors and crew with his reported one-million-dollar budget. He and director of photography / editor Philip W. Dingeldein know how to use colors, light, and darkness to set the mood and ratchet up the suspense, resulting in a fun little thriller with few pretentions.

To save money, Collins went the Dario Argento route by having his band Crusin' perform the rock songs on the soundtrack -- watch out for them during the dance scene with Collins on keyboards. Shot in and around Collins's hometown of Muscatine, Iowa, using locals as extras, the suspenseful script even offers a few twists and turns to keep it unpredictable.

Mommy also features a stellar cast, including Michael Cornelison (Lost in America), Jason Miller (The Exorcist), scream queen Brinke Stevens (Nightmare Sisters), Majel Barrett (just about every Star Trek manifestation), and even Mickey Spillane (creator of Mike Hammer) in a featured role.

The tenth anniversary DVD release (currently available only in the Max Allan Collins Black Box Collection: Shades of Neo-Noir) is digitally remastered and loaded with hours of extras, including a reading of the original short story that appeared in Fear Itself, edited by Jeff Gelb. Everything from the first DVD is here along with a brand new tenth-anniversary commentary with Collins and Dingeldein that discusses the parallels between Mommy and Road to Perdition, which was based on a graphic novel by Collins and Richard Piers Rayner.

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