Flesh Eating Mothers (1988)

Suburban housewives turn into vicious cannibals after committing adultery with the neighborhood womanizer.

VHS release pictured: 1989, Academy Entertainment.

Starring: Robert Lee Oliver, Donatella Hecht, Neal Rosen | Director: James Aviles Martin

Flesh-Eating Mothers: VHS of the Month Review

by Sam Rakestraw

I think that if the COVID pandemic happened in the 80s, we would get some pretty product-of-the-time films about it, especially in a time with no internet or memes to cope and communicate with. The tried and true media of film is always reliable for such messages to be incorporated into stories, and the 80s had a lot going for it as we all know, and a unique style of tackling sensitive subjects through cheesy flicks and some things that can seem like bad taste at first glance. Flesh-Eating Mothers is one such flick but is also appropriate for this month as it can pass as a nice twisted Mother’s Day flick.

Much like Killer Workout, we have another vastly independent movie that went straight to the video store. The budget for Flesh-Eating Mothers is reported to be around $10,000 and it beautifully shows some of the camera work and quality. I will give praise to the gore effects. When all else fails at least they can always fall back on that. Flesh-Eating Mothers is a James Aviles Martin production, who had debuted with a topical zombie film about drug dealers in the 80s called I Was a Teenage Zombie in 1987. Right after tackling the war on drugs, he would tackle the AIDS epidemic with Flesh-Eating Mothers with similar production values in time for a 1988 video store release. It mixes the zombie and slasher genres for a ripping and tearing adventure fraught with stock characters, wooden acting, unintentionally funny lines of dialogue, and a guaranteed bad time if you try to overthink it.

Flesh-Eating Mothers has an awesome title card complete with munching animation and homely fonts. The main title, Suburbia by Sherri Lamar, is a banger though it is more so aimed at the setting rather than the tone. Despite all those establishing shots, I don’t think we ever got the name of the town. The residents and our main characters aren’t really anything special beyond their one or two quirks. We got a series of families, most of which seem to consist of single mothers or ones with husbands that are barely home. Timmy (Terry Hayes) acts as the lonely wife fairy here –truly getting around town with all those mothers. I don’t think anyone actually gets wise to him throughout the whole movie, and he doesn’t even appear much despite being the cause of everything that transpires. At least he gets what he deserves by the end of it. The quiet suburban life of secret affairs is interrupted when Mrs. McCormick (Marie Michaels) eats her son and Mrs. Nathan (Grace Gawthorp) eats her husband. Our main monsters are Mrs. Shepard (Alley Ninestein), Mrs. Vivaldo (Suzanne Ehrlich), and. Mrs. Douglas (Katherine Mayfield). Their children (Donatella Hecht, Valorie Hubbard, Robert Lee Oliver, and Neal Rosen), all teens going to the same school, are brought together through the bizarre events and must try to minimize their mothers’ damage while also trying to figure out why along with how to cure them.

Meanwhile, there is a farce comedy going down at the police station as Mr. McCormick (Mickey Ross), also a police officer, is suspected of randomly killing his wife when she found him eating their son. The forensic scientist (Michael Flur) is a wooden actor and a little bit of a bumbler as it takes him a little bit longer to fully figure out what’s going on with the mother out. Officer Hitchcock (Morty Kleidermacher) is a schizophrenic psycho who should never have passed the police academy --he’s like Ricky from Silent Night Deadly Night II. And, just like Ricky, he goes on a self-righteous shooting spree that kills Mr. McCormick (poor guy). Hitchcock is devoured and ripped up by the moms when attempting to stop them as karma would have it. Meanwhile, Dr. Grouly continues to dazzle the screen with Troll 2-like deliveries and antics with the hot lab assistant (Carolyn Gratsch). Police Commissioner Dixon (Ken Eaton) has secrets of his own as he watches the events unfold.

In the end, there are multiple explanations given as to why housewives who slept with someone other than their husband became ravenous flesh-eating beasts. Dr. Grouly said it was a venereal disease passed through sex. Commissioner Dixon, having seen it before himself when he cheated on his wife, claims that is God punishing them for breaking one of the classic commandments of thou shall not commit adultery. Despite that, Grouly is able to find a cure and our teenage heroes administer it to their affected mothers. Interestingly enough, they cure them with antibiotics which in reality do not actually cure viral infections; they are used for bacteria. It’s nice at least, with the kids giving their mothers a welcome back-hug. I wonder how some of them will react when they find out they ate some of their kids. See, the more you try to think about it the more unpleasant it is. You just need to enjoy Flesh-Eating Mothers.

No one is going to watch Flesh-Eating Mothers for the characters or actors. It’s like watching a Troma movie, you just want to see weird and gory things happen and have a grand old time watching it. The best practical effects in movies are cheap as strange as that sounds. When it comes to Flesh Eating Mothers, there are times when the $10,000 budget really shows. The stretchy and bloody meat bits are great but sometimes the dismembered limbs look too much like Halloween decorations –you can see the plastic gloss. Some visuals are appealing like Mrs. Nathan turning into a toad-like ghoul and eating her husband’s arm. The moms’ makeup to make them look like weird quasi-zombies each has their own personality which is nice. It reminds me of our monster cast from Night of The Demons.

The most memorable line of dialogue from the film, hands down, is from Mrs. Vivaldo’s son –"What are we supposed to do? Stay here and have our asses chewed out by our mothers?” Not eat their brains, hearts, or even faces, but their asses. Great one Neal Rosen. It’s strange, I only know the characters by the actors’ names since characters don’t use names a whole lot in this movie. Honestly, the Vivaldos were the best mother and son pair in the movie because they really have the most character development. Mr. Vivaldo is in prison, so Rinaldi (that’s his name!) doesn’t have a father in his life and is definitely the rebel child archetype. He’s the kid that kicks his mom out of his room and fights with her daily. After curing her, Rinaldi learns the value of having a mom in his life in a very sweet conclusion that embodies the true meaning of Mother’s Day. It’s moments like this that give grungy movies their charm and make the characters seem real and less like caricatures.

I love looking at James Aviles Martin’s IMDB page. He’s only been on four projects it looks like. In the 80s, he made I Was a Teenage Zombie and Flesh-Eating Mothers one year after the other. Then, he proceeded to take a hiatus until 2003 to make a documentary called Artwatch which looks at how the restoration of classical art pieces can actually damage them. Then in 2011, he released the 2 hours and 14-minute feature-length, Diega! A Latino production and retelling of Alcestis by Euripides. What is this man’s career? It’s hard to find anything about Martin and much of the cast and crew of his 80s movies. So, I like to assume that Martin was a young buck maybe in his late 20s in the 80s then matured and became a man of higher art and taste. I guess he also liked to tackle topical issues from back in the day like the war on drugs and the AIDS epidemic.

We have another Academy Entertainment VHS release with Flesh-Eating Mothers. With such a small budget, you’d think that there would be nothing but profits to be made when it hit the video stores. What they should’ve done was release it on Mother’s Day 1987 assuming it was done. That would’ve absolutely boosted its video sales. Academy Entertainment is yet another small video release company where low-budget scary movies were their main export. The VHS tape of Flesh-Eating Mothers doesn’t sell for nearly as much as Academy’s other release we saw this year, Killer Workout, but it fits seamlessly in any VHS collection. We also can’t ignore the beautiful Mother’s Day message that Martin has Flesh-Eating Mothers offer –always love and help your mom, even if she turns into a ghoul hungry for human meat.