A housewarming party gets all kinds of awkward, when a family of psychotic criminals arrives without an invitation, in this remake of the 1980s horror classic.
The original film was an ultra-low-budget effort that benefitted from gore effects and a spirited cast. It told the tale of three girlfriends who are attacked by a family of psychos. The women take it on the chin for most of the film, but eventually they strike back when their inspirational leader is murdered by the crazed killers. The remake takes some of these elements but sets its sights higher by increasing the size of the cast and setting the story in a midwestern town that is being evacuated in the wake of a tornado warning.
The story begins with three brothers fleeing from a botched bank robbery that saw them lose the loot to the only crook who wasn’t a member of their family. Making matters worse is that the youngest sibling caught a bullet and their home base has been sold to another family that isn’t very happy to find them crashing their house party. Those bankers may have messed up our economy, but at least their actions make a plot point like losing one’s home instantly credible.
The guests are a motley crew, but they provide plenty of fodder, especially when Mom shows up, with younger sister in tow, and proves to be the mastermind behind this wild bunch. To make matters worse, she is also mighty mad since losing the home. Mom soon learns that her sons had been sending money to the old homestead, but the new owners claim to nothing about that. What follows is a long night of party games that even the Marquis De Sade would eschew.
The film splits into two stories from here on in, with Mom and her boys breaking up the party, while the oldest son takes a ride though town with the lady of the house and everybody’s debit card for some getaway money. While they hit the ATMs in town, the party goes to the dogs when Mother figures out that the man of the house is a good liar. This is a very bad development for the guests, as mom is not above using them as so much cannon fodder to get what she wants.
It all comes down to a brutal fight, as the guests figure out that they will have to get bloody if they want to survive the evening. The resulting battle is a lot of things, but mostly messy, as people are cut, burned and even peppered with nails before this party breaks up.
They get a lot of mileage out of the concept of motherhood here, as most of the ensuing violence is committed in her name. The film gets a huge boost from Rebecca De Mornay as the titular terror. She is remarkably controlled in the role and comes off as a more polite version of that other horror villain, “The Step Father.”
The violence and torture sequences are painful to watch, thanks to director Darren Lynn Bausman (“Saw 3”). He proves to be the right director for this material and is deft at mixing moods, so that you will find yourself laughing at certain scenes, while cringing during others.
The only place they drop the ball here is the ending. The original film had a crazed yet satisfying conclusion that involved a female bigfoot-type creature, but this version opts for letting some bad guys off the hook, which totally violates the spirit of the original film and leaves you unsatisfied. Still it’s all well executed, even if they can’t wrap it up in a tight bow by the final credits.
Best line: “Don’t Dr. Phil me. I ain’t here for you to understand.”
2010, rated R.