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Mom and Dad

MOM AND DAD (USA / TBC / 85 mins)
Directed by Brian Taylor. Starring Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Lance Henriksen.
THE PLOT:
The Ryans seem like your average American nuclear family. However, Brent (Nicolas Cage) and wife Kendall (Selma Blair) have grown apart from their kids, teenager Carly (Anne Winters) and tween Josh (Zackary Arthur). Unsatisfied with how their lives have turned out, Brent and Kendall go about their daily routines. Except for the fact that today is no ordinary day. Either there’s something in the water or parental protective instincts have got re-wired in an instant, prompting parents everywhere to react violently, even murderously, towards their children. With societal structures collapsing and the nuclear family going into meltdown, Carly and Josh will have to do what it takes to survive…
THE VERDICT: ‘Mom And Dad’, the latest film from ‘Crank’ co-director Brian Taylor, is a gleefully demented and admirably irresponsible piece of filmmaking. Throwing all good taste out the window, Taylor launches you full throttle into a suburban nightmare fuelled by random violence. It’s parents vs children in a battle royale, which determines who has the guts to go for the guts. It’s far more effective in depicting the troubled underbelly of family life than last year’s weak, confused ‘Suburbicon’.
Taylor’s tight, witty script packs a lot into a streamlined running time, taking the time to occasionally flesh out the characters via flashbacks. This is particularly welcome in understanding how the Ryans tick. At one point, Brent bemoans the fact that he is older and now just ‘Dad’ rather than Brent. He obviously didn’t get the memo that your own life ends when you have kids (sort of). Kendall has her own unfulfilled dreams, but has passed the running of the house to her live-in maid. How they interact with their precocious kids is important in understanding what transpires later on, when events go off the rails and into frantic, action-packed ‘Home Alone’ territory.
This is where the film comes into its own, with the performances turning on a dime and all manner of kitchen utensils come into use. Taylor cranks the adult performances up to 11 here, but it works well given the storyline. Blair’s switch comes very suddenly and subtly, while Cage hints that something is a bit off about Brent early on. Cage has a lot of fun here, playing into audience expectations of his rock-n-roll persona, while making Brent something of a sympathetic character (it’s his favourite film of the last decade). Winters and Arthur more than hold their own as the kids, resourceful and as strong as their parents.
Taylor goes a little too far in some scenes (e.g. the disturbing hospital scene) and perhaps not far enough in others. Showing parents standing outside a school window like patient zombies is a great, suspenseful set-up but then decides not to follow-up on that. However, Taylor gets the tone of the film just right, prompting you to laugh inappropriately no matter how crazy the story gets (and it gets really crazy at the end). He clearly wants you to be in on the joke as much as he is. For that alone, ‘Mom And Dad’ comes recommended. It’s a domestic horror that would sit comfortably in a double bill with the similarly subversive Better Watch Out. Forget the kids, worry about the parents. It’s all their fault, right?
RATING: 3.5 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor