Beverly Sutphin has a loving husband, two wonderful children, and a beautiful house in suburbia. She’s a devoted wife and mother and an enthusiastic homemaker. She’s like a walking advertisement for both Motherhood and the American Dream. Except for one small detail. Beverly Sutphin happens to be a serial killer. She’s the Serial Mom in John Waters’ delightfully twisted 1994 movie Serial Mom. It’s not that Beverly is one of those awful psycho killers. She’s just very protective of her family. And she only kills people who really have it coming to them. I mean if you go around stealing people’s parking spaces, you have to expect that people will get annoyed. We’ve all been so angry we could have killed someone in that situation, the only difference is that Beverly actually does it.
Kathleen Turner is perfect as Beverly. Imagine Carol Brady suddenly turning into an axe murderer and you have a fair idea of what Turner’s performance is like. Sam Waterston displays a surprising flair for comedy as Beverly’s perpetually startled dentist husband. Waters regulars Ricki Lake (as Beverly’s boyfriend-starved daughter Misty), Patty Hearst and Mink Stole provide good support. Matthew Lillard manages to be both wholesome and slightly creepy as the horror movie-obsessed son. Serial Mom gives John Waters the opportunity for some fairly savage satire at the expense of suburbia, the media, the justice system and our obsession with killers as celebrities, but it’s all done with surprising warmth and light-heartedness. Which, combined with some rather graphic violence, just makes it all the more disturbing. It’s also very funny and thoroughly enjoyable.