Studio: The Asylum
Director: Mark Quod
Writer: Keith Allan, Delondra Williams, Anna Rasmussen
Producer: David Michael Latt
Stars: Kirsten Prout, Chloe Bridges, Brandon Smith, Rachel True, Tim Russ, Daryl Hannah
A seventeen-year-old girl has her world turned inside out when someone hacks into social media to destroy her reputation.
The Asylum is not just for mockbusters, hybrid-monster creature features, and popcorn flicks mixing natural disasters with aquatic animals. Now they are in the business of repackaging a former cable TV movie-of-the-week as a brand new thriller with box art spoiling the big reveal.
The other accomplishment of a box cover with Daryl Hannah behind a Michael Myers butcher knife and in front of blood spatter is a misled audience. Redbox continues the snake-oil sale by listing the film under the “Horror” category. In reality, “Mother” is merely a cautionary tale about the perils of privacy for tech savvy teens that originally aired on Lifetime under the title “Social Nightmare.” If not for “twist” given away by the poster, “Mother” would play perfectly as one of those educational films masquerading as entertainment that teachers occasionally force bored students to suffer through.
Every high school in America has a Catherine Hardy. Cat is the kind of saintly goody goody making mother proud while frustrating peers with consistently flawless overachievement. In school, Cat balances her competitively high GPA with duties as student council president. Extracurricular activities include yearbook committee and volunteering her free time to help developmentally disabled children.
So when the message “later losers!” appears on Cat’s Facebook, er- “Buddyme” page after being accepted to Brown, naturally everyone assumes that Cat’s inflated sense of self has finally turned her to the dark side. Eager to spit the first retaliatory venom at Cat is her best friend Emily. Despite having spent the previous evening checking her phone while Cat drafted an appeal letter on her behalf, Emily is convinced that Cat’s message was meant to rub the snub of her Brown rejection in Emily’s face. Because that is behavior in keeping with her best friend’s previously untarnished halo.
Cat professes her innocence to friends and teachers and changes her Buddyme password. Then things go from bad to worse when a scoreboard surfaces under Cat’s name outing sordid sexual secrets of classmates, including lies about her boyfriend’s mentally handicapped adopted sister. Even with all the fishiness popping up around Cat’s recent online actions, her boyfriend Daniel jumps on the immediate anger bandwagon, wagging a hasty finger of shame in his girlfriend’s face for being so heartlessly cruel.
The movie’s entire setup is silly. “Mother” takes place in some bizarre alternate universe where stolen passwords, identity theft, and backdoor hacks are incomprehensible concepts. The speed with which everyone assumes that Cat decided to suddenly reveal herself as an evil ice queen after seventeen years of angelic behavior is astonishing. As the damage done to Cat’s reputation mounts, she continues professing her innocence through rivers of tears that fall on the deaf ears of her closest friends and teachers.
It is both hysterical and insulting when Cat’s teacher Mrs. Langran first says, “it doesn’t seem like something you would do,” before adding in a skeptical tone, “well … who would want to do that?” Mrs. Langran disciplines teenagers on a regular basis, yet she finds it unfathomable that even one of Cat’s peers might be jealous of the pretty blonde socially conscious class president on her way to an Ivy League college with a full academic scholarship.
Mrs. Langran eases Cat’s worries by promising to get to the bottom of things, but later tells Cat that her story about someone sabotaging her life is “just not lining up.” Apparently it makes more sense that Cat would put in all this effort herself in order to be kicked out of yearbook, impeached as class president, have her university acceptance rescinded, and be doped up on doctor-prescribed medication as her mind breaks down from the ongoing stress.
Joining Mrs. Langran in spitting up ridiculous lines is Cat’s on-again/off-again BFF. Daniel takes his revenge on Cat by circulating her sexy cell phone pics to the entire class. Emily gives him an earful about this reprehensible action by confronting him with, “I’m not the one who took her vulnerable, trusting first attempts at sexuality and just tossed them all out there for the world to see.” Would someone really use those words? In this world, yes. No dialogue is too laughable. With her daughter spiraling into suicidal despair over losing everything and everyone, Daryl Hannah’s mother character eases the pain by saying, “there’s nothing like warm mac n’ cheese to make all your troubles fly away.”
The snowballing chain of events propelling the plot is so increasingly absurd that making a message about cyberbullying becomes a missed opportunity. “Social Nightmare” probably started with a sound goal of educating teens about Internet safety through contrived melodrama. “Mother” cheapened that intention by trumping it up as a psycho thriller even though the film is devoid of blood, tension, and thrills. The over-the-top depiction of how social media can turn a life upside-down is lost in so much unreality that there is barely a moment in “Mother” that any rational person would ever take seriously.
Review Score: 30