By Glenn Kenny
Updated January 26, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Slamming the sacred institution of motherhood is almost as ancient as the institution itself — remember Medea? These two mom-from-hell tales, Mother and Mommy, both show that it still pays not to track mud across the kitchen floor. In the dour, nasty Mother, star and coproducer Diane Ladd uses her murderous matriarch role as an opportunity to demonstrate what Joan Crawford would have done with some Actors Studio training, and the result is an ickily hammy performance that makes the movie unpleasant rather than chilling. In droll contrast, the low-budget Mommy casts The Bad Seed‘s Patty McCormack as a grown-up variation of the homicidal little girl from that 1956 classic, and she’s hilariously creepy. Scripted and directed by mystery novelist Max Allan Collins, it has a tight, believable story that packs an equal amount of shock and dry humor and boasts a real find in newcomer Rachel Lemieux, who plays the suspicious fifth-grade daughter with a moving combination of innocence and knowingness. Mother: C Mommy: B