PRINT March 1994


JOHN WATERS’ NEW MOVIE, Serial Mom, is not what you would call an especially plot-driven narrative. In the gentle language of literary criticism, the diegesis is subsumed by the rabid, frothy-mouthed semiosis. From the very first scene, which shows Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner), the serial mom of the title, stalking a pesky fly through her exquisitely hygienic kitchen, it’s abundantly clear that this woman is totally wacko. Establishing her, uh, dark side early on, the film provides not the usual pleasures of fear and suspense but a series of increasingly ornate vignettes of mayhem. And since Mrs. Sutphin’s adorable teenage son works in a video store and is a confirmed addict of cinematic blood-naughtiness, Waters has ample opportunity to tip his hat to the kinds of films that nourished his own sensibility—stuff like Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1963 Blood Feast, and the evocatively titled

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