Mom and Dad
A teenage girl and her brother try to survive when parents start inexplicably trying to kill their kids in violent and brutal ways in Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad.
This isn’t the sort of film that any serious thought should be applied to because there is clearly no motivation to pay an awful lot of attention to it. Like any disposable slasher film it exists to have underdeveloped characters be brutally assaulted for its run time. To its credit this film never pretends to be anything other than what it is.
The reason for making this film can probably be summed up in two words; Nicolas Cage. He’s cinematic Marmite and that shows no sign of changing. Many won’t be excited by his appearance in a film though many will check it out to see if there will be any associated lunacy. I’m personally in the latter camp but I also hope that he will deliver the excellent performance that I know he’s capable of.
Mom and Dad pretty much exists as a vehicle for Nicolas Cage to deliver his unique brand of insanity and thankfully he does so in spades. Every word he says has an unhinged quality to it and there’s almost a ticking clock building up to him leaving sanity behind. Even mundane scenes where he talks to his wife and kids have a degree of lunacy to them, almost as if Cage’s Brent Ryan constantly struggles to be a functional human being.
This characterisation is consistent throughout as he’s deep into a midlife crisis and full of regret for the life choices that have led him to this point. In the film’s few introspective moments Cage does a great job showing the build up of the years of regret turning him into the man he is.
Adding to this is his wife Kendall (Selma Blair) who feels redundant in her own life now that her daughter is a teenager and gives her nothing but attitude. Her attempts to get back into the world of work are denied by her former boss and she only seems to live for an exercise class populated by equally bitter middle aged women who also hate their lives.
This grim view of parenthood is part of the DNA of this world as shown by glimpses into the lives of others where it’s clear that in this town every parent hates their children and every child hates their parents. I suspect the film is trying to make some kind of point about how families are often stuck together even when the situation becomes difficult to tolerate. If that’s the intention then it’s handled in a really clumsy way though it does fit the overall premise.
The plot itself is an excuse for violence and surprisingly takes a while to get going considering the short running time. Attempts at depth such as a pointless lesson about planned obsolescence fail to achieve much more than a ham fisted metaphor about children making their parents redundant when there’s nothing wrong with the original version. The film could certainly have got to the action much more quickly rather than forcing the audience to sit through a really tedious first act.
No attempt is made to explain why parents are suddenly killing their children though several possibilities are suggested throughout the film. In a lot of ways it feels like a Zombie movie as those often offer no reason for the dead starting to return to life to feast on the living. The maniacal and animalistic way that parents go after their children also reminded me of Zombies.
When the action does kick in it’s a mixed bag. Much of it marred by rapid editing and shaky cam making it impossible to see what’s going on. These moments are thankfully relatively infrequent but they are distracting enough to stand out especially when they act as the pay off of sustained build up.
Another confusing choice is periodically cutting away from action sequences to show flashbacks to earlier points in the lives of the characters. Fleshing out these relationships is largely unimportant considering how otherwise surface level the film is and is completely unnecessary when the only thing that needs to be understood for the stakes to work is that the parents are killing their children.
There are moments of effective tension throughout. An extended sequence where the kids are hiding in the basement as their parents figure out a way to get to them is really well executed and allows the characters time to show their resourceful natures. The relentless chasing often manages to create a sense of urgency and the overall variety in what the film has to offer in terms of its set piece moments is fairly impressive.
The real star of the show is of course Nicolas Cage who delivers his trademark lunacy perfectly. Watching him sing “Hokey Cokey/Pokey” while swinging a sledgehammer and smashing up the place is a true delight along with numerous other examples of Nicolas Cage branded insanity delivering constant entertainment in the latter scenes.
Selma Blair is no slouch either. Her insanity is far more subdued but also very effective thanks to a more measured and deliberate approach to committing infanticide. She’s an effective foil to Cage’s unbridled lunacy and together they make for a really intimidating pair that are a lot of fun to watch.
Their daughter, Carly (Anne Winters) is watchable enough though embodies a lot of bratty teenage stereotypes. Early scenes have her filled with lots of attitude but the latter part of the film elevates her to more than a hapless scream queen. Anne Winters does well enough with the limited material she’s given though I’m not sure I was ever able to root for her to succeed which I suppose is the risk when Nicolas Cage steals so much of the focus.
This isn’t a great film but it’s a lot of fun thanks largely to Nicolas Cage who delivers his trademark brand of complete lunacy in the best way possible. The story itself is surface level and takes far too long to get going but delivers some really tense and entertaining moments when it gets to the meat of the narrative. Much of the action is marred by rapid editing and shaky cam but effective tense moments go some way towards making up for this. Selma Blair is also no slouch delivering a different type of insanity making her an able foil for Cage. Anne Winters delivers a solid performance considering how little she has to work with though the Carly character is more than a simple scream queen.
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