John Waters, the eccentric filmmaker with a penchant for divinely dark material, is known for a great many things, particularly the cadre of unique nicknames he has acquired over the decades. They’ve been bestowed upon him by a constellation of admirers—William S. Boroughs called him the Pope of Trash; the Baltimore Sun (newspaper of note in Waters’s beloved home town) once called him the Prince of Puke. The People’s Pervert was a moniker that came from The Guardian, he believes.
“I have other ones: the Duke of Dirt, the Anal Ambassador, the Ayatollah of Assholes. There’s too many to keep straight,” he tells Vanity Fair. “Let’s just say I prefer John.”
Even so, his boyfriend had a little fun with the 71-year-old auteur’s reputation when he gave Waters a scepter for his 70th birthday. “Since I have so many royal titles,” Waters explains sarcastically. “I can rule my filth.”
Waters has, for decades now, reigned over cult cinema with a gleefully wicked eye. He made Divine eat dog shit (Pink Flamingos), orchestrated anal sex scenes with rosaries (Multiple Maniacs), and penned some of the screwiest one-liners to hit the silver screen (from Female Trouble: “I wouldn’t suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your balls!”). His later films pack the same twisted bite—and soon, his glossiest film to date will be re-introduced to the public. Serial Mom, the 1994 true-crime satire starring Kathleen Turner as a homicidal homemaker, will get a new collector’s-edition release on May 9, featuring director’s commentary; a conversation with Waters, Turner, and longtime Waters collaborator Mink Stole; interviews with the cast (including Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard); and a “making of” featurette, a scrumptious assortment fit for any Waters completist.
Serial Mom, viewed through a 2017 lens, is oddly ahead of its time. It’s a crime story, the genre of the moment, with marvelous performances centered around an antiheroine and a biting sense of humor. To date, it’s Waters’s most expensive film, with a crisp $13 million budget. He made the most of it, casting his “Dreamlanders” (the nickname for his frequent collaborators) and stars like Turner, and building brand-new sets in warehouses—a far cry from the days when Waters would make movies in his family’s home. Though fans of Waters’s earlier work might not find the film as radical, it’s still got a dark, absurdist core—Turner’s character is a serial killer with a Stepford Wives pedigree who tortures her neighbor with hideous prank calls (“Is this 4215 Pussy Way?!”) and plots to kill women wearing white after Labor Day. Waters himself also makes a little cameo, playing the voice of Ted Bundy.