“Beverly, I’ve read all about this. Is it menopausal?”
Serial Mom is a 1994 American black comedy crime film written and directed by John Waters.
Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) appears to be a typical suburban housewife living with her dentist husband, Eugene (Sam Waterson), and their teenage children, Misty and Chip (Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard), in the suburbs of Baltimore. However, she is secretly a serial killer, murdering people over the most trivial of perceived slights, including mere faux pas.
During breakfast, Detectives Pike and Gracey arrive to question the family about the vulgar harassment of their neighbour, Dottie Hinkle. After the police and her family leave, Beverly disguises her voice to make obscene phone calls to Dottie, because Dottie stole a parking space from Beverly.
Later that day, Mr. Stubbins, Chip’s math teacher, becomes Beverly’s first known murder victim. During a PTA meeting he criticizes Chip’s interests (graphic horror films) and questions the boy’s mental health and family life, as well as berating her parenting. So, Beverly runs him over with her car. Twice. Unfortunately she’s witnessed by Luann Hodges, a young woman smoking marijuana nearby. The next day, Misty is upset when she’s stood up for a date. Beverly spots the young man with another girl at a swap meet. With her friend’s newly purchased fire poker she murders him in the bathroom.
Panic and rumours spread. Meanwhile Eugene has discovered a hidden stash of Beverly’s serial killer memorabilia under their bed. She even has a taped message from Ted Bundy recorded a week before his execution. Later, during dinner, Chip mentions that his friend Scotty thinks she’s the killer. They all share a laugh before Beverly abruptly leaves the house, leaving only a note behind. The family scramble together in the car, fearing the worst and hurry on over to Scotty’s place. However, Scotty is safe and sound, watching porn in his room. Beverly’s real victims are patients of Eugene’s. Ralph and his wife, Betty: who called Eugene away to treat her husband’s chronic toothache on a Saturday. She stabs Betty with scissors and causes an air conditioner to fall on Ralph, who caught her killing his wife.
That Sunday, police follow the Sutphins to church and a news report names Beverly as the suspect in the murders of the Sterners. The church service ends in pandemonium when a suspicious sound causes everyone to panic and flee the church. Police detectives confirm that Beverly’s fingerprints match those at the crime scene and attempt to arrest her, but she escapes.
She hides at the video rental store where Chip works, but a customer, Mrs. Jensen, argues with Chip over paying a fee for failing to rewind a videotape and calls him a “son of a psycho”. Beverly follows Mrs. Jensen home and while singing along to “Tomorrow” on her rented copy of Annie, she bludgeons her with a leg of lamb. Scotty witnesses the attack through a window, Beverly sees him, and a car chase ensues.
Catching him at a local club, Hammerjack’s, Beverly sets Scotty aflame onstage. While the all-girl band Camel Lips play in front of a deranged crowd. The Sutphin family arrive, as do the police, and Beverly is arrested.
How will Beverly get out of this one? Will she be executed like her pal Ted Bundy?
Serial Mom is designed to offend the people it’s parodying and that’s pretty much everyone. Although it’s listed as a horror comedy I’d say it’s less horror and more comedy as lots of the gore is shied away from. The film had just enough dark moments to balance out the laughs to keep it on the right track. But ultimately for me it could have gone a few steps further. The best scene for me was Beverly’s phone stalking. That scene really set the tone for me and the whole exchange was hilarious. Overall, Serial Mom is a camp classic, led by the deliciously wicked Kathleen Turner. If your afternoon needs some humour then this quotable satire flick will do the job nicely.