Film: Serial Mom

Serial Mom is a 1994 American satirical comedy film written and directed by John Waters. The film centers around Beverly Sutphin, a stay-at-home housewife from Baltimore who appears to be a sweet matriarch, but in reality is a Serial Killer who murders anyone who offends her values. The case turns into a media frenzy and Beverly becomes the object of attention by heading into trial. Hilarity Ensues.

The films stars Kathleen Turner as Beverly, as well as Sam Waterston as her husband Eugene, Ricki Lake as her daughter Misty and Matthew Lillard as her son Chip.


This film provides examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Most of Beverly's victims are at least fairly repugnant early on. She is demonstrated to be insanely petty as the film progresses, however.
  • Author Appeal: The premise of the movie springs from John Waters' personal interest in highly publicized criminal cases.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Beverly gets an acquittal after she's arrested and put on trial. She even kills one of the jurors who acquitted her on her way out. While this is discovered in front of the media, the recent events leave doubt as to whether things won't just repeat themselves, as Beverly quite visibly knows.
  • Berserk Button: Beverly's motives for murder range from social faux pas (wearing white shoes after Labor Day) to mistreatment of her family (standing up Misty) to sheer pettiness (questioning her parenting, stealing her parking space).
    • The judge hates profanity in his courtroom.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Beverly has all the credentials of a saccharine suburban housewife, but in reality is a petty psychopath who obsessively torments and kills anyone who so much as acts in an uncouth tone towards her.
  • The Cameo: Suzanne Somers, who is slated to play Beverly in an upcoming TV movie, is brought to the trial for no other reason than to distract the jury and the judge.
    • Beverly's last victim in the movie is played by Patty Hearst.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Both Beverly and Dottie during the former's prank phone calls.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Scotty, who is interrupted hilariously by the Sutphins and the police after mistakenly take his orgasm for screams of terror.
  • Depraved Dentist: Eugene
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Beverly kills people for what most would consider trivial reasons. This includes one of the jurors who acquitted her, for wearing white shoes after Labor Day and contemplating on killing someone for not recycling.
  • Karma Houdini: Beverly successfully gets acquitted out of multiple murders, though the film is left on an ambiguous note when her post trial victim is discovered. The band Camel Lips practically assist her with her final victim prior and aren't even accused.
  • Mistaken for Prank Call: Beverly invokes this in the midst of her regular prank calls to Dottie Hinkle (for stealing a parking space). She calls Dottie back immediately after her last prank call, pretending to be a normal caller at first:
    Dottie: Didn't I just say fuck you!?
    Beverly: [in a different voice] I beg your pardon!
    Dottie: Who is this?
    Beverly: Mrs. Wilson from the telephone company. I understand you're having problems with an obscene phone caller?
    Dottie: Yes, I am. I'm sorry, Mrs. Wilson, but this is driving me crazy! I have my number changed twice already. I'm a divorced woman, please help me.
    Beverly: Well what exactly does this sick individual say to you?
    Dottie: I can't say the words out loud, I don't use bad language.
    Beverly: Oh well, I know it's difficult, but we need to know the exact words.
    Dottie: I'll try. Cocksucker, that's what she calls me.
    Beverly: [reverting to the original voice] Listen to your filthy mouth, you fuckin' whore!
    Dottie: Goddamn you!
    Beverly: Motherfucker!
    Dottie: Cocksucker!
  • Serial Killer
  • She's Got Legs: Taken to the extreme when Beverly realizes one of the witnesses in the trial is fascinated with her legs and exploits that distraction to the point that he recants his earlier testimony.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Beverly bludgeons one of her neighbors while the lady is singing along with "Tomorrow".
    • Beverly herself sings along with "Daybreak" while fleeing a police car in her station wagon. It's also the closing song of the movie.
  • Stepford Smiler: Beverly is a subversion.
  • Stepford Suburbia
  • Villain Protagonist