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Serial Mom – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Serial Mom is the John Waters film I’m most familiar with (Though admittedly he’s a director I just haven’t completely familiarized myself with that much). While not doing much at the box office, it became a video store staple in the 1990s and with that, a cult classic. At least, that for the teen/college generation of the 90s for the time.  It also seemed to be a movie that was on Cinemax all the time during the 90s as well. That’s how I first came to see the movie the first few times.  Now, its getting lots of that cult classic love that only a distributor like Scream Factory can give with their coveted Collector’s Edition label. And, its coming just in time for Mother’s Day. So, pre-order to have yourself a copy when it releases on May 9th!

Film 

Beverly is the perfect happy homemaker. Along with her doting husband Eugene and two children, Misty and Chip, she lives a life straight out of Good Housekeeping. But this nuclear family just might explode when Beverly’s fascination with serial killers collides with her ever-so-proper code of ethics – transforming her from middle class mom to mass murderer! Soon, the bodies begin to pile up… and suburbia faces a horror even worse than wearing white after Labor Day.

John Waters has this black humored touch that only a few others like Tim Burton and Paul Reubens can hit with their take on the suburban lifestyle. They all manage to create an aesthetic, style and characters that feel they could be of one universe or at different places in history of one. Serial Mom is no different as we have a humorous take on a murderous rampage from a mother killing anything that threatens to change or disrupt her lifestyle or anyone in her immediate family’s.

Serial Mom also can double as a “holy 90s, Batman!” kind of movie when you look at the cast and some other things. What other movie has Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Suzanne Somers, Joan Rivers, Traci Lords and Justin Whalin all in one place? That’s an abundance of notable 90s players that really were peaked out in that decade. Also, Lillard’s character works at a VHS rental store. *Swoon* I wanted to just pause and marvel at the posters (In his bedroom, too) and the movies that were on the shelf. I did notice that Shock ‘Em Dead was on the shelf, a movie that not only had Traci Lords in it (Who shows up in the movie), but she’s on the box.

There is only one person who really should be talked with in total captivation with Serial Mom, and that’s mom herself; Kathleen Turner. Turner just chews up scenery and gives a performance that expertly balances both prestige and camp. Roger Ebert had complained that the movie was no fun because he thought her performance was too serious, but I must disagree. Just because she’s not going full on madness doesn’t mean she’s not hamming it up with some camp. In fact, her sense of restraint helps put a viewing in the spot of actually giving a crap about a character that you might have otherwise easily wanted to see her get what’s coming to her.

Waters film is a nice, tight 90 minutes of dark comedy, fun death scenes and some nifty gore. I don’t know how it would work with a modern generation of kids, but those who grew up in this era were most likely to eat this up. Nowadays I’m sure this film is an easy bit of nostalgia for an adult who missed out on it when it was released. Even so, if you’re into John Waters (His mom deemed this his best film), like black or horror comedy, then you should find enough charm and fun in this one.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Serial Mom debuts on Blu-ray with a solid transfer that gives it the best look its ever had.  It has that image that falls into that sorta look that a lot of films from the 1990s have. It features some really good detail, like gristle and charring on chicken as well as other foods along with specifics on home decor items.  At times it looks really good, but there are spots and segments where the film looks kind of average. Overall, its crisp and sharp enough to make it satisfying, but its a wonder if this one’s elements would ever ledn to better.

Depth:  The depth in the image only lends itself to being just above average. It has enough spacing between foreground and background matching with natural movements and minimal blur/jitter when it comes to quick motion.

Black Levels:  Blacks fare quite well with a good, natural and deep look. No real unintentional loss of detail is present nor any crushing effect witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors overall look mostly dingy with a natural appearance. Sometimes blues look strong, especially a could of denim shirts. Greens are hit and miss. A tank top here or paint on a building there pop, but grass looks rather toned down but keeping good variations on tints. Reds are the real highlight, bursting off the screen to go along with pink and others in the red family really making their presence known.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and keep a consistent appearance throughout the feature runtime. Facial details like wrinkles, moles, dried blood, sweat gloss and blemishes show pretty good in close ups and somewhat okay in medium shots (though they contain some smoothness at times)

Noise/Artifacts: Some grain.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Serial Mom comes with a solid 5.1 track, but with how this mix plays, it could have served very well just having a 2.0 track. The film features a good balance of scoring, vocal and sound effects, weaving them together so they are never stepping on the other’s toes or meshing together. Effects do sound pretty strong, with good depth and layering abundant throughout. This one sounds plenty satisfying, even if the 5.1 aspect of it isn’t brought in a full force kind of manner.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Subwoofer contributions include some good bass and drumming in music, an air conditioner unit falling on someone’s head, glass smashing, impalements, doors slamming and car engines humming.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This is a more front-heavy track though the rear speakers do help in spots, but mostly apply ambiance. Front channels give a good accurate depiction of character/action placement on screen as well as volume carrying the distance.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals find themselves being crisp and clear, with good volume setting and placement throughout.

Extras 

Serial Mom – Collector’s Edition comes with a reversible cover featuring the original poster art.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director John Waters and Actress Kathleen Turner – Carried over from the previous DVD release.
  • With Director John Waters – This commentary has now made it to its 3rd release as it was on the first 2 DVD editions of the film.

In Conversation With Director John Waters, Actress Kathleen Turner and Actress Mink Stole (HD, 34:27) – A real sit down with the director and two actors as they go through a pretty in depth conversation on making this film (As well as some of Waters’ other works). Everyone is in very good spirits (Lots of laughs) and some interesting on anecdotes (What its like to work with a movie star, some personal stuff with Kathleen Turner, other cast members, etc). Lots of script talk as well which is neat. Fans, even just film fanatics would probably be interested in Waters contributions and ideology in filmmaking that comes across in this.

The Making Of Serial Mom (SD, 6:06) – An EPK done during the shooting of the film with interviews from John Waters and cast, but its very padded by scenes in the film.

Serial Mom: Surreal Moments (HD, 29:06) – This is the retrospective documentary from the previous special edition DVD that has interviews With Waters, Stole, Actress Patricia Hearst, Actress Ricki Lake, Actor Matthew Lillard, Casting Director Pat Moran, Production Designer Vincent Peranio and others but doesn’t have Kathleen Turner involved. Now paired with the “In Conversation” featurette, you have everyone’s thoughts now.

The Kings Of Gore: Herschel Gordon Lewis and David Friedman (HD, 11:26) – A ported over featurette that goes over Waters’ being influenced by Blood Feast (Which shows up in the film) and the history of that film. A very cool little addition that I’m glad they kept.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:28) 

Summary 

Serial Mom continues to be a quirky little horror comedy poking fun at suburbia in a way that only someone like John Waters could. Scream Factory brings it to a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray that seemingly puts in the missing piece to the bonus materials on previous DVD to complete it out (Unless there are deleted scenes somewhere). The picture quality is quite solid to go with some good audio in its best presentation. Fans should be happy with this very nice upgrade.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Serial Mom – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I saw this film when I was young and not able to interpret satire amidst the horror going on. It was disturbing, even though it’s probably quite tame, given what it’s doing.