The Film (4/5)
When I was making short films John Waters (along with Jim Jarmusch) was my biggest influence. During the commentary for his seminal 1972 film Pink Flamingos (needs a Blu-ray), he said that his films were (to paraphrase) a series of cinematic crimes. As his career went on his films become less explicit, and more campy, and mainstream, but they still maintained that atmosphere of trash that he started with. I believe no film blends his early trash aesthetic with his move into the Hollywood mainstream that 1994’s Serial Mom.
Serial Mom stars Kathleen Turner as Beverly Sutphin, a suburban Baltimore housewife that along with her perfect husband Eugene (Sam Waterston) are working to raise their 2 children Chip (Matthew Lillard), and Misti (Ricki Lake). Beverly's obsession with the perfect nuclear family life has taken a dark turn recently with an obsession with serial killers, and as people fail to live up to her standards, or just annoy her, she kills them.
Serial Mom feels visually feels like an extension of the Douglas Sirk-ian obsession (All That Heaven Allows) that Waters had been channeling since Polyester, but put into the world of the horror comedy. Even though the film is set in 1990's Baltimore the visual queues especially around the Sutphin's (especially Beverly) are very early 1960's. A lot of this comes from the set design of frequent Waters collaborator Vincent Peranio who helps to bring this world to life.
The cast from Kathleen Turner down are pitch perfect in their roles. Turner especially is superb as Beverly who carries a nice balance of very dark seriousness, while maintaining a nice air of high camp that works very well here. She is played against quite well by Sam Waterston as her husband who is just trying to deal with the sudden uptick in her antics. Lillard and Lake both are excellent, Lillard's high energy performance style is especially suited to Waters' filmmaking. Of course, Waters' Dreamland collaborator Mink Stole is brilliant as Sutphin neighbor and target of Beverly's many frustrations Dottie Hinkle.
At times watching the film I couldn't help, but think that Serial Mom was Waters' earlier Female Trouble made again for the 1990's generation. In the end I couldn't help, but think the pair would just make an excellent double feature. Regardless, Serial Mom is one of Waters' finest outings. This is just one horror comedy that actually works.
Scream Factory presents John Waters' Serial Mom in a quite decent 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray transfer looks and sounds quite decent with colors coming across nicely, detail being solid, and black levels are just fine. There are moments of softness throughout, especially in exteriors, grain is light to moderate, and never a distraction.
Audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in English. Everything sounds decent here, dialogue comes through as does the film's score. I did not detect any issue.
Any film directed by John Waters is bound to have great extras and Scream Factory's Serial Mom is no different. We get 2 commentary tracks one is archival and just features Waters, the new one is with both Kathleen Turner and Water'. We also get an interview with Waters, Mink Stole, and Kathleen Turner. There is an EPK making of the film, a 26 making of from a prior DVD release, and an piece on H.G. Lewis and David Friedman whose Blood Feast appears prominently in the film. There is also a trailer.
Serial Mom is one of John Waters' finest films. It blends high camp and comedy with horror, and manages to balance them all. The Blu-ray looks and sounds quite nice and has a solid slate of extras HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.