Mom and Dad (2018)
Mom and Dad (2018)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.

Release Date: January 19th, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Brian Taylor Actors: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert Cunningham, Olivia Crocicchia, Lance Henriksen, Samantha Lemole, Rachel Melvin

 


 

“O

h my god, I will kill you!” Though he has to study for his PSATs, Damon (Robert Cunningham) is distracted by his girlfriend, troublemaker Carly Ryan (Anne Winters), who promises to make up an excuse to sneak away for a celebration after the test. Carly’s parents, Brent (Nicolas Cage) and Kendall (Selma Blair), don’t approve of the boy, demanding that she stop seeing him. But they’re also preoccupied by Kendall’s sister’s pregnancy, which promises a new baby any moment. And younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) just likes to torment his sister.

Meanwhile, news reports start popping up about parents who have inexplicably murdered their own children – or so it would seem. Of course, there are a few sneak-attack tickling sessions and the sudden kicking of a child’s toy to throw audiences off guard. Shots of a sleepy little suburban street and abandoned halls of a school similarly exude a horror film vibe, suggesting that, in the blink of an eye, something might jump into frame to shock viewers (highly contrasting the feigned serenity of everyday normalcy).

“It’s like they’re waiting for a buffet.” As it turns out, something is affecting parents everywhere; they’re spontaneously driven to seek out their children and kill them, with whatever they have at their disposal – be it car keys or bare hands. This basic premise, which soon adopts the form of zombie films and other such biohazard epidemic endeavors, is certainly original – and intermittently comedic, in an incredibly dark way. It’s also satirical and ironic, commenting on the role of parents, discipline, and links to the animal kingdom, though these ideas are buried deep enough that the picture is predominantly a thriller. Yet the clever editing and use of contrary music add to the pitch-black humor.

Of particular hilarity – and abhorrence – is a birthing sequence, which, with specific anticipation, turns frightful as the mother suddenly decides to off her offspring. Many of these scenes are creative in their crafting of fear and bloodshed (along with the deterioration of respect for authority figures, the disintegration of the family unit, and looming depressions related to the toll of parenting [including a loss of identity and independence]), which are made more harrowing since the children are the heroes, forced to adapt and overcome continual threats from the very people they should trust the most. As is typical with horror plots, the onset of infanticide and filicide aren’t given precise reasons, which is perfectly acceptable – perhaps even adding to the scares (though the conclusion is oddly open-ended).

Flashbacks to earlier events are unfortunately unnecessary (save for a few additional, droll oppositions provided by fond remembrances of child-rearing), as are references to other fictional properties (“‘World War Z’ just broke out at our school …”), but the escalating absurdity of crazed parents blithely brainstorming ways to slaughter their children is dementedly superb. When Brent and Kendall grow more and more pleased with their homicidal schemes, fantasizing over the uncommon daydream of brutally relieving themselves of parental responsibilities, the allegorical components become more apparent – and more humorous. Plus, Cage once again gets to unleash his crazy side on camera, bursting into fits of hysteria – and even crying and barking like a dog. And the longer the terrorizing ensues, the more outrageous (and surprisingly canny) it becomes, transforming into a wildly barbarous bit of escapist entertainment.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10