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Film / Serial Mom

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Serial Mom is a 1994 American satirical Black Comedy film written and directed by John Waters. The film centers around Beverly Sutphin, a stay-at-home housewife from Baltimore who appears 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, 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, though she is demonstrated to be insanely petty as the film progresses.
  • Artistic License – Law: Pretty much the entire trial.
  • Author Appeal: The premise springs from 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: 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.
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  • Black Comedy: The film doesn't play all the deaths as funny, but does try to find humor in the subject matter.
  • The Cameo:
    • Waters provides the voice of Ted Bundy in a tape recording.
    • Suzanne Somers, who is slated to play Beverly in an upcoming TV biopic, is brought to the trial for no other reason than to distract the jury and the judge.
    • Beverly's last victim is played by Patty Hearst.
    • The band playing at local club Hammerjacks is named Camel Lips - played by the members of L7.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Carl.
  • 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 revels in his patients' pain, though not for sadistic or malicious reasons.
  • 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.
  • Evil Is Petty: 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).
  • Hypocritical Humor: Frequently used with Beverly, who despite her intense value of social virtues, is in reality petty, catty tempered, sadistic and in one of her juror's case, thoroughly ungrateful.
  • Kangaroo Court: The film mocks the media's glorification of criminal stories, something Beverly swiftly manipulates to garner sympathy in the court.
  • 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!
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Beverly's family are outright terrified when she is acquitted, knowing they could very easily end up next.
    • The juror after realizing the person she acquitted is going to beat her to death. Suzanne Somers gets one after the body is discovered, very quickly figuring out the culprit is standing right next to her.
  • Pretty in Mink: Suzanne Somers, being a successful actress, wears a couple full-length fur coats in her scenes.
  • Serial Killer: The eponymous mom kills several people.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: Waters' previous films appear as VHS tapes in the video store Chip works at.
  • 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: John Waters said that Serial Mom is basically a theoretical "part two" of Female Trouble.
  • Squick: Beverly and Eugene moan loudly while having sex, much to the disgust of their children, who can hear everything.
  • Stepford Smiler: Beverly is a subversion.
  • Stock Scream: By the guy who finds Carl in the bathroom.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Beverly coldly bludgeons to death one of the jurors who acquitted her. For wearing white shoes after labor day.
  • Villain Ball: Just minutes after being acquitted, Beverly goes to commit her pettiest murder yet, only for the body to be publicly discovered. Of course, since she practically murdered her previous victim in public and still got found innocent, it's questionable whether this one will really be her undoing.
  • Villain Protagonist: Beverly, obviously.


Example of: