Back in the ’90s, one of the most terrifying things to adults was the sexuality of young people. While many television films tapped into that heightened fear, one of the most popular was the 1996 classic, Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?… and it set the bar for this sort of movie.
Something about the heightened stakes and the film’s ability to feed into parents’ fears with regard to the repercussions of the sexual revolution resonated with audiences, and Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? gained a cult following and strengthened the “young, beautiful women in peril” TV movie genre.
Twenty years later, James Franco has led the charge to remake Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? in an effort to gain the same cultural foothold. The remake is clearly looking to up the stakes in a supernatural way. Gone are the abusive boyfriend tropes, replacing them with mystical sapphic love while taking on new layers of supposed subversive sexuality. Leah (Leila George) thinks she’s found real love with her new girlfriend, Pearl (Emily Meade), but Pearl is keeping a bloodthirsty secret from her newfound beloved. Julie (Tori Spelling) is immediately taken aback by her daughter’s newfound same-sex tendencies and is immediately suspicious of the gothic Pearl. While Leah just wants to prove herself as an actress in her college’s production of Macbeth (featuring James Franco’s meta turn as the play’s director), Julie is determined to uncover what Pearl is hiding. Little does she know that beneath Pearl’s photographer exterior, she’s a member of a lesbian vampire cult.
The inclusion of vampires in the new version of Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? is what audiences are really going to sink their teeth into. These sexy undead nightwalkers have a taste for blood in a way that you’ve probably never seen in a TV movie. Not only does their murderous thirst come at a steep price for their victims, but their seductive way of taking down victims brings an exciting element of sexuality to the not-yet-tired lesbian vampire genre. (Okay, so maybe it’s not an official “genre” yet.)
In their pursuit to turn teens into everlasting creatures of the night, you must know… there will be blood. Come to think of it, I can’t think of a TV movie that has spilled more blood. Not one, and I’m thinking hard. It’s as if Carrie left prom and took a ride in that elevator from The Shining and then ended up at that Cabin in the Woods.
Then there’s Mr. James Franco. Actor, writer, director, producer, everyman. There’s no scarcity of surprises when it comes to what James Franco decides to take on in his career. Franco really decided to put his own twist on the TV movie classic — a twist that was inspired by a surprising source. In an interview with /Film, Franco admits that Will Ferrell had a lot to do with his decision.
“Mother May I Sleep With Danger? came out of Will Ferrell having done Deadly Adoption,” Franco said. “Will told me that he was actually inspired by my going on General Hospital when he did that. Then Lifetime came to me and said, would I like to recreate one of their movies like Will did. I said yes, as long as I could change it a bit.”
Franco’s version is, in many ways, a huge departure from the original, and yet in just as many ways, it’s not. Running teams and eating disorders are out the window and replaced with lesbian Macbeth and did I mention lots and lots of blood? Many of the story beats remain the same as the classic original, but there is an appealingly lurid sheen that was missing from the original. Like the ‘90s Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?, it taps into the sexual anxieties of the day — not to mention, acceptance of same-sex relationships. But it responds to them much differently. It may focus a lot on hot girls making out, but Franco, as usual, is going for something deeper here, finding his inspiration in an odd, unexpected source.
Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? airs on Saturday, June 18 at 8/7c on Lifetime.