But Is It Horror? A Few Quick Impressions of Serial Mom

It is hilarious.  This was the Friday night, 10 p.m. showing at the Indiana University Cinema — hence my writing this just after midnight Saturday — of director John Waters’s 1994 SERIAL MOM.  “A hilarious and dark twist on the everyday mediocrity of suburban life,” so say the program notes, “SERIAL MOM gives us Kathleen Turner as we’ve never seen her before.  As Beverly Sutphin, Turner plays a seemingly perfect homemaker, who will stop at nothing to rid the neighborhood of anyone who cannot live up to her perfect moral code.”  This even includes, as we find out when she’s finally caughtSerialMom, brought to trial, and in a parody of courtroom dramas acts as her own lawyer to gain an acquittal, murdering one of the jury members for wearing white shoes after Labor Day.  This even after the juror explains that particular etiquette rule is no longer in force.

So it’s a crime film in a way too, or a satire of one — but is it horror?  Her son and his friends’ watching horror movies (he works in a video rental store, which helps feed his habit), which mom does too augmenting it with reading about real live serial killers, is certainly part of the “corrupting” mix.  But what of the neighbors?  Those who she finds “guilty” and metes out varying degrees of punishment to.  How well, in fact, do you know your own neighbors?

Even at this moment they could be watching you.

But the supreme horror for me was at the end, just as the jury found mom not guilty, and one sees the looks on her family’s faces when it sinks in:  They will have to continue living with her.  (The daughter hastily assures her new boyfriend, the previous one deceased after mom overheard the daughter complain when he’d stood her up, that everything would be okay as long as he was careful not to get mom upset.)  Granted, of course, they had stood by her, but to the extent of wearing “anti-death penalty” buttons and hoping for an insanity finding.  And such was her fame already that Susanne Somers was set to play her in an upcoming SERIAL MOM TV film.

Paranoia anyone?


  1. Ha ha! I enjoyed that movie! I think Kathleen made a great Serial Mom but I have my doubts that Suzanne S. would have been half that good. 😀

  2. She would have been different, I’m sure — as we have a hint after the courtroom scene where she and mom pose together in the hallway, mom beginning her complaint that her “bad side” is facing the camera just as the dead juror is discovered!

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