Thursday, 15 March 2018

Review: Mom And Dad

Mom And Dad
Cert: 15 / 86 mins / Dir. Brian Taylor / Trailer

Because sometimes, as pleasantly surprising, heartwarming and theatrically introspective as a day's cinema-viewing can be, you just want a nice jet-black comedy featuring someone being attacked with a meat-tenderiser on the front lawn…

Mid-life crises, social media, gun-control, school lockdown procedures and good old suburban angst are all fair game for hyper-reality analysis in Mom & Dad, a post-millennial horror/satire about parents unexplainedly*1 attacking and killing their own children. It's also bloody good fun. From the faux-70s title sequence, the audience knows it's in for a movie which has plenty to say without taking itself too seriously. And while this sounds like an awkward balance, that's not the one which causes the biggest problems.

Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair star as Brent and Kendall Ryan, the eponymous couple, parents of two school-age children, Carly (Anne Winters) and Josh (Zackary Arthur), who spend the day watching news reports of the apparently motiveless mass-attacks with increasing concern until they themselves are driven by the same inexplicable urge. It's at this point that the film switches between the adults and the kids as their home becomes a bloodstained battleground. There have been plenty of horror movies about teenage paranoia over the years of course, but writer/director Brian Taylor's feature is one which tells its tale (at least partly) from the parents' point of view; they don't turn into mindless zombies and have no inclination to kill other people's children - just their own.

Unfortunately, while the in-universe rules of this intriguing setup are established loosely, the film soon becomes so pre-occupied with the mechanics of a reverse home-invasion that they're all but forgotten about. Setpieces accelerate nicely, promising huge pay-offs but then pull back to another buildup elsewhere, and a plot device with subconsciously-detectable TV signals is hinted at*2, before being discarded altogether. 

Of course, since almost everyone on-screen goes nuts before Nic Cage, their escalating behaviour just sets the bar for him - a bar he smashes through as only he can, with unhinged ease. Like a honey badger that's been sleep-deprived, force-fed Sunny D and mescaline then let loose in a moshpit. But even this comes in fits and starts, as explanatory dialogue and flashbacks continue to play a part well into the third act. When the ending abruptly arrives, so little is wrapped up that it feels like the budget and schedule ran out simultaneously (even moreso than in Red State), and Taylor has spend 75 minutes writing cheques he's realised he can't cash*3.

The limits of 15-certification, a short run-time and erratic pacing hold Mom & Dad back from realising its full, glorious batshit potential. Although it's still enormous fun in the meanwhile.

Plus, someone gets attacked with a meat-tenderiser on the front lawn, so...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Think of The Happening, mixed with The Belko Experiment.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
I suspect you'll definitely get the most out of this on a big screen.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
A buy-er, once it comes down to a reasonable price.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not particularly.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Not at all.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not a one.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film's got that Selma Blair in it, and she was in 1999's Cruel Intentions along with Sarah Michelle 'Seventh Sister' Gellar.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 By which I mean it's left unexplained, but more on that later. [ BACK ]

*2And this only stands out because modern televisions don't generally display white-noise. [ BACK ]

*3 And for the record, that fire would have fed back into the gas-supply and taken out the entire house. Obviously. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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