Mom and Dad review Selma Blair Nicolas Cage sceneYear: 2018
Director(s): Brian Taylor
Writer(s): Brian Taylor
Region of Origin: US

Rating: R
Color, 83 mins

Synopsis: A teenage girl and her little brother must survive a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own kids. (Source)

There’s that infamous stretch in our teenage years, fleeting for some, a bit more momentous for others, when we hate our parents, and they hate us. Now, imagine this period turned into a bloodthirsty horror film, and that’s Mom and Dad in a nutshell. Brian Taylor (most known for the unhinged Crank series) has churned out a riotous thriller that somehow twists zombie tropes into something more relatable. At times, this film is way too real, allowing adults to have their day as they unleash years of pent-up aggression on their unsuspecting offspring. Though the film can’t fully express the brilliant ideas at its core, it’s at the very least a queasy portrait of the relationship between youth and maturity. Nic Cage and Selma Blair also run wild in a way that’s as oddly satisfying as it is sobering.

It’s apparent from the start that the Ryan family, Brent (Nicolas Cage) and Kendall (Selma Blair), along with children Carly (Anne Winters) and Josh Zackary Arthur) all love each other, even if there’s a bit of unsaid malaise eating away deep down inside. But that’s life right? So the mildly dysfunctional family carries on, going about their day like any other. But this isn’t any other day. It just so happens that an unknown epidemic is spreading across the country, one in which parents suddenly give into their rage-induced impulses and murder their children without remorse. Before anyone can get a grasp on what’s happening, Brent and Kendall target their kids without discrimination.

At the root of the film, is an exploration of the gulf between instinct and action. All of us have our off days, our guilty thoughts, but not acting them out is what keeps us civilized. Taylor’s film is what happens when we inexplicably give into the worst parts of ourselves, diving headfirst into lunacy without inhibition. For most of the film, Taylor has a good grasp on the unsaid torment that drives the film’s murderous rage fest, targeting mid-life regret, teenage angst and even nature’s drive to destroy the past to forge a new future. What Taylor captures so well, is survival instinct, with an older generation clinging to the past, while a younger crop of kids rises to relevancy. Though the film doesn’t quite make ends meet, Taylor’s manic style and ADHD editing (split screens, sped up interludes and punk rock tunes) makes for a messed-up, thrashed out home invasion twist.

Mom and Dad reviewWithout mincing words, the main draw of the film, to no surprise, turns out to be an unhinged Cage and Blair. If you’re interested in the film to begin with, it’s probably to see Cage go wild, and in that department, he doesn’t disappoint. Cage puts himself fully into Brent, channeling unbridled insanity as he screams expletives at his offspring and literally tears his surroundings apart. Blair, on the other hand, approaches things at a more nuanced level, giving Kendall a more gradual transformation that’s constantly at odds with who she is. Winters and Arthur, as the Ryan kids make a splash, while newcomer Robert Cunningham leaves are mark as well.

Mom and Dad is middle class satire that hits hard. Its humor will be too dark for some, and some of its humor is too dark to laugh at, but its a primal idea done with a irresistibly sleazy grindhouse abandon. The film isn’t here to make us feel good, tearing apart our comfort zone in a way that feels necessary. The ending definitely falls a little flat, but by then, the film has already accomplished what its set out to do, confronting the horror that threatens to tear apart suburban complacency while proving to us, that, the future is inevitable, and that there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

SG