Jim Vorel and Kenneth Lowe are connoisseurs of terrible movies. In this occasional series, they watch and then discuss the fallout of a particularly painful film. Be wary of spoilers.
Ken: Jim, before we get into tonight’s way-too-topical Bad Movie Diaries entry, I want to thank you for bringing this news item to my attention. We called it, Jim. We’ll be heading back to Aldovia come Christmas to witness a royal birth.
Jim: I won’t be satisfied unless A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby has a surprise reveal of royal twins or triplets, at the very least. All of my self-worth is riding on this, Ken. I’ve invested more than I can afford to lose.
Ken: It’s good to know what I’m going to be hating about my life come December. But on to the main event. Jim, as a fellow graduate of an Illinois public university, I know you too are probably rubbernecking at this week’s news that luminaries like Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin face allegations of bribing their kids into college, along with dozens of other rich and privileged parents from various American industries. Fortunately for our readers, we seem to have stumbled, quite by accident, on a movie of Loughlin’s that resonates way, way too closely with that news.
Jim: It really is something. When I skimmed through the IMDB profile of “Aunt Becky,” looking for a movie we could watch for this feature following Loughlin’s very public arrest, I initially was just looking to land on anything that didn’t have “Christmas” in the title. I had no idea that A Mother’s Rage would be such a perfect parallel for the entire situation she’s found herself in.
Ken: For those of our readers who, like me, never watched a single episode of Full House back in the ’90s and are pretty sure it’s the result of time-travel manipulation, Loughlin played “Aunt Becky” in that show. In A Mother’s Rage she actually plays a character who is both named Rebecca and embodies everything about the sort of white woman who would call the cops on a black family who are just barbecuing or shopping for prom dresses. Jim, she is a literal and figurative Becky in this movie.
Jim: She is the Ur-Becky! And remember, Ken, it’s not just the kids of the ’90s who are aware of Loughlin these days, thanks to the Next Generation antics of Fuller House on Netflix. (She’s now been fired from Fuller House)
Ken: Before we get started in earnest, just confirm for our readers will you: You had no idea the twists lying in wait for us in this plot, I take it? You just grabbed a random Lori Loughlin flick, hoping it might prove bad enough to meet the Bad Movie Diaries seal of disapproval?
Jim: Well, it was a Lifetime movie, so I was pretty certain that it would. But yes. The Lifetime Seal of Quality really carries you a long way in the bad movie department, in my experience.
Ken: You stumbled across this hilariously apt gem, sir, so I grant you the honor of setting the scene for us.
A Mother’s Rage begins in the most incredibly apropos way for a Lori Loughlin movie in this week of 2019 to begin: During a car ride with her college-bound daughter, as Becky and daughter Conner (Jordan Hinson) argue over her prospective major at “Wheatly” University. One can only speculate as to what kinds of bribes and kickbacks secured such a desirable post at a fine liberal arts institution like this one. And yes, the daughter is in fact named “Conner,” which I guess can be used as a girl’s name because sure, whatever.
Ken: And during this car ride you really do get the impression this is going to be some kind of breezy movie about an average, single soccer mom, and that at best the “rage” is going to be her wrestling a gun away from some rapist and shooting him after a movie where mostly nothing happens.
OK, honey, now if anyone asks how you got into Wheatly, you just tell them that you’re a legacy.
Jim: You absolutely do get that feeling, thanks to the music selections coming out of what sounds like a stock catalog, and the myriad shots that seem like egregious product placement. Did you notice all the BMW lust in this movie, Ken? Diet Coke, Coors Light and Johnnie Walker all get weirdly up-front placements too, but BMW literally gets the phrase “he was just admiring the Beamer!” as Conner defends the first leering, skeezy man they encounter on the trip.
Ken: We learn later that is actually a line of Deep Portent, that he was “just admiring the Beamer,” don’t we? The beauty of A Mother’s Rage is that just when you think it’s revealed the depths of its complete lack of self-awareness about what it’s saying about its central character, it goes even deeper and even crazier and even less self-aware.
Jim: Sort of a Möbius strip of obliviousness.
Ken: So, Rebecca is paranoid that this young man peeping the Beamer is following them and trying to kidnap her daughter. She is so hyper-alert that she notices a discarded cigarette on the ground outside their hotel room. It turns out, amazingly, that she was right: A brief car chase ensues, Rebecca boots a panicked daughter from the car and then Rebecca is kidnapped by “Kelly,” a tattooed, gun-toting bad boy. Did they mean to name him Conner and got the character cards mixed up on their corkboard, Jim?
Good evening, Madam; I am the first in a series of impossibly evil men you will be meeting on this journey. I hope our evil time together will be most felicitous to the cause of evil.
Jim: Oh wow. That would actually explain a lot, now that you mention it. Regardless, I was laughing pretty hard during this chase when Rebecca demands that her daughter jump out of the car “in order to keep her safe.” That’s what police recommend when you’re being followed by a guy in a truck, right? Kick the most vulnerable person out of the vehicle and abandon them in the countryside?
Ken: Tuck and roll, Little Timmy!!!
Jim: Of course, it doesn’t ultimately matter, because it’s the prelude to A Mother’s Rage pulling a truly astounding narrative twist, not 27 minutes into the feature. And that one twist basically undoes everything that has happened in the film up to this point. Lay it on the good people, Ken.
Ken: Well Jim, we are introduced to the second protagonist in the film, Sheriff Emily (Kristen Dalton), who is toting her precocious teen daughter Molly (Alix Elizabeth Gitter) around on a work day and who gets a call of a stolen vehicle having been spotted. We think it was because “Kelly” went swinging his nuts around in a convenience store with his screaming, captive prisoner RIGHT IN PLAIN SIGHT and a gun in his belt VISIBLE TO THE WORLD like any genius criminal, but it turns out the car was ALREADY STOLEN. Because Rebecca is an escaped mental patient, and she stole it.
Oh, and she’s also been hallucinating her murdered daughter and fabricating the attendant obsessive need to both get ghost daughter to her first day of college and murder every male who looks sideways at this imaginary friend. Which she immediately does to Kelly, strangling him to death in the Beamer.
Jim: It is a jaw-dropping and entirely unforeshadowed realization, to be sure.
Ken: Now Jim, I just want to lay down something else:
This would have been a grand revelation in a better movie. This could have been the plot to Jordan Peele’s next magnum opus. A delusional white lady imagining persecution at every turn, who justifies committing violence against random people, but in her own mind she’s the one fighting for her life.
But no, because as deluded as she is, her delusions are always justified. Just like when we watched Dangerous Men, every single man they meet is a violent rapist.
Jim: You figured it out, Ken. A Mother’s Rage is clearly a spiritual remake of Dangerous Men, something I also realized about halfway through my viewing.
Jim:And as you say, the reveal of the nature of the situation—the fact that Rebecca’s daughter is actually dead—is the kind of twist that would anchor the ending any average thriller. Here, it’s as if they realized they’d never be able to adequately lay the foundation or foreshadowing for that kind of reveal, so they just went and let the cat out of the bag, 30 percent of the way through the film.
Ken: Yes, this is nearly half an hour into an hour and 22 minute film.
Jim: As you also implied, the most incredible thing about A Mother’s Rage isn’t that a sequence of bad events happen, wherein a deranged Lori Loughlin ultimately kills three different guys, but that EVERY SINGLE TIME, her paranoid delusions turn out to be completely correct.
First, she suspects a man for offering a cigarette to her ghost daughter, and he turns out to be a car thief/sexual slaver. Then she suspects a man of leering at her ghost daughter, and he turns out to genuinely be a knife-wielding rapist. Then she suspects a friendly hitchhiker they pick up of being a threat, and it turns out that this (really quite nice) fellow is actually the VERY SERIAL KILLER who is responsible for her daughter’s death in the first place! All completely by chance. It’s like Loughlin had a clause in her contract that stated all the male characters had to be even more luridly psychotic than her character, so the audience would still sympathize with her.
Ken: That last killing was just the last straw for me, but we’ll get to that… oh we’ll get to it. I kept expecting to find out, from the Sheriff’s point of view, that these men were actually harmless, and that she was wholly hallucinating everything. But no, we’re shown time and again that these men really were jackasses who needed to get got.
Jim: Yes! I wrote down the exact same thing, Ken. In a normal movie by a competent filmmaker, we would find out that she’s also been hallucinating these encounters—that the men in the film are just average guys who she’s been murdering because of her delusions. But this is Lifetime, so…yeah. This movie doesn’t have 10 percent of the subtlety it would take to execute that kind of more realistic twist.
Ken: The second guy she whacks, the knife-wielding fry cook, is a hilarious exchange all around. Her imaginary friend daughter insists the guy is leering at her and Rebecca’s immediate course of action is to seduce him into an alley to give him a stern talking-to, whereupon he pulls a knife on her and she then SHOOTS HIM IN THE DICK. And then, as he lies pleading on the pavement, she executes him in broad daylight.
The waitress thought it was a raccoon! Probably just a .38 caliber raccoon.
Jim: Are we sure Lori Loughlin isn’t Robocop? I know I’ve never seen the two of them in the room at the same time. And their dick-shooting proclivities are oddly similar.
I’m pretty sure you could tell me this image was from ANY Lifetime movie, and I would believe you.
Ken: I can’t come up with a joke about her turning on her corporate overlords at Lifetime, but I imagine the fallout of this week’s news is going to be that they declare her obsolete.
ED Note: She’s actually been dropped by the Hallmark Channel now, where she’s made the majority of her TV movies that don’t involve her killing people.
Jim: I don’t know about you, but after she kills the fry cook and cements her MO, I burst out laughing just seeing them slowing down for the hitchhiker on the side of the road. It’s like, “Oh good, here’s another guy who can be revealed as a rapist or a murderer in the next ten minutes.”
Ken: They almost had me, Jim, almost had me believing that this was finally going to be the one who turned out to be a random bystander. He’s a college kid who seems plainspoken and harmless, and Rebecca starts ranting to him about how he’s clearly got his eye on her daughter even though we, by this point, know that the daughter isn’t there and he clearly can’t see her. He even seems to be trying to play off her weird mentions of her daughter with polite Midwestern ignorance.
Jim: But then…serial killer.
AND NOT JUST ANY TOON!!!!!
He cold-cocks her, drags her back to his house, putting her stolen car right in his driveway, ties her up and discovers to his great joy that he also killed her daughter two years ago.
Jim: With the same hitchhiker ploy, apparently. Stick with what works, I say.
Jim: Meanwhile, Sheriff Emily—who I thought of as Sheriff Amy Adams, because she sort of looks like her—has been hot on the trail, assisted by her “Girl in a Chair,” which is her 15-year-old daughter Molly, a young girl with a macabre fascination in grisly police work. You see, Ken, this ultimately is the story of a mother and a daughter after all. Just not the ones you were expecting.
Ken: I kept waiting for Molly to bust out and rush to the crime scene ahead of the authorities like an impetuous wittle Nancy Drew and end up imprinted upon by Lori Loughlin, but I guess I expect too fucking much out of life, Jim. Am I a jerk for wanting something more interesting than the audience of Lifetime demands?
Jim: I think she’s doing pretty well for a 15-year-old junior detective, Ken.
The true protagonists in every way, except for screen time, paycheck and audience interest level.
Ken: She gets points for spunk, but nothing happens with her. She stays home and cracks one or two clues about, wait for it:
The other pile of gangland murders that Rebecca committed and was never collared for!
“By the way, our protagonist has killed before! Tons! They were all bad!”
Jim: I love Molly’s introduction, by the way, when her mother tells her, “You’ve got to stop going on the internet and looking at dead people,” and her daughter replies, “I can’t help it; it’s what I love!” I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how serial killers like the Hellish Hitchhiker get their start, is it not?
Ken: This could be a segue into the general clunkiness of the dialogue here, but I think our readers get the picture. We’ve already spoiled so much, Jim, so why don’t you tell us how this complete mess ends?
Jim: Sheriff Emily bursts into the serial killer’s torture dungeon, and our wily killer pretends to be the aggrieved party. However, considering that he has Rebecca tied to a chair, and she has a sharp instrument stuck in her shoulder, I can’t say I blame the Sheriff for not buying it. While keeping her gun on the killer, she releases Rebecca…who proceeds to stab the killer, before being SHOT by the killer, who is in turn shot to death by the Sheriff. So in conclusion: Everyone but Sheriff Emily dies, and Rebecca has a final vision of her saintly, deceased daughter who essentially assures her that she killed all the right people.
Lori Loughlin was put on this Earth to mete out divine justice, Ken. Lifetime told me so.
Ken: I am in the same kind of awe one must have been in when sitting awkwardly in the audience listening to Dante Alighieri read his Divine Comedy out loud in front of all the people he populated his Inferno with. This movie reveals so, so very much more about the headspace of its creators and intended audience than it ever means to.
We should mention, by the way, that A Mother’s Rage is currently available in its entirety on YouTube and that we watched it there. Although it’s clearly a screengrab, I am very thankful for this, because it means we saw all the overlay ads popping up in the corners for movies like Blood is Thicker Than Water or My Daughter is Missing.
Jim: It’s almost as if missing daughters are a persistent Lifetime motif.
Ken: I know what I learned about paranoid, delusional White Mom America, Jim. What have you come away with?
Jim: I came away with what was simply a reinforcement of something I’ve already known as a result of screening a lot of Lifetime movies at bad movie nights: They have a beautiful way of taking a faded TV star (like Lori Loughlin) and using them to tell a story that exemplifies the worst tendencies of your average Trump voter. Or to put it another way: Nobody justifies murder quite like Lifetime.
Ken: I think we should close by reminding our readers that Loughlin is innocent until proven guilty. In this case, the prosecutors are going to need to prove that she moved Heaven and Earth to cloak her child in a privileged protection at the expense of any other human who might get in her way, all under the premise that anything is worth it to have a perfect little daughter who goes to some elite university.
Jim: At least she’s not accused of shooting anyone in the dick for her daughter, Ken. That’s something.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer, and you can follow him on Twitter. Kenneth Lowe is a contributing writer for Paste, and you can read more of his writing at his blog.