Mom and Dad, the garish black comedy by Brian Taylor, flips the concept of parents protecting their children on its head (literally). Our opening scene is an effective mic-drop of an introduction with a mother abandoning her child in a car set to be hit by a train. Yes, Mom and Dad does not skimp in any of its intentions.
Something is happening, parents are showing up at school to see their kids early in the day, police sirens can be heard for miles. Amid suburbia enters the Ryan family, and while it takes a little longer for the hysteria to hit home, it’s not a moment too soon.
Parents, for an unknown reason, are suddenly met with an intense urge to kill their children. There is generally a sort of static, whether by TV or radio, that first prompts this change from nurture to murder.The unknown origin of this mass hysteria is great because no explanation is required. It’s an idea that’s quite brilliant really, because it allows for a combination of humor and horror that’s believable.Brian Taylor directs, and as we’ve seen in some of his other features (Crank 1 & 2, Ghost Rider 2), he knows how to do intense.
Mom and Dad is fueled by the same force but with a format all its own. This fever dream uses one weapon in it’s arsenal for which Taylor and audiences are familiar with: Nicolas Cage. When it comes to Cage, you never know what you are going to get. This is the kind of feature that he flourishes in and his character is most definitely unhinged, contributing largely to its entertainment value.
Meet The Family
The Ryan family consists of father Brent (Cage), mother Kendall (Selma Blair), daughter Carly (Anne Winters) and son Josh (Zackary Arthur). From our first scene with the family, as well as the housekeeper (Sharon Gee) and daughter Lisa (Adin Alexa Steckler), we see that there are a lot of underlying issues. We have a dysfunctional middle-class family that doesn’t seem to hide their lack of consideration for one another.
Young Josh enjoys storing dead animals in his father’s old car. Highschool student Carly does drugs at school and sneaks out to see her boyfriend Damon (Robert T. Cunningham), whom Brent so clearly objects to. Kendall is seemingly lost, joylessly exercising and going out for iced coffees with friends. Brent golfs, works and fantasizes about what life was like when he was young.
There is a sense of dread built from the very beginning. We see glimpses of their resentment and dissatisfaction, normal responses to bratty teenage and infuriating child behavior. We even see the indifference that the parents seem to have for one another. Both parents are essentially yearning for their youth again, when they lived for only themselves.
One superb scene shows Cage build a pool table only to break it apart when Blair asks about it. He’s clearly a conflicted man, moving through a sort of mid-life crisis, and as he sings the “Hokey Pokey” we watch him release his wrath on the pile of wood.
A Show of Horror and Comedy
This movie goes full throttle, committing to scenes of mother-daughter strangulation, attempted baby asphyxiation and a diversity of attempted murders. One scene involving said infants is especially troubling. Blair’s sister, immediately after giving birth, is struck with the uncontrollable intent to murder. This is prior to Blair’s own inclinations and we watch on with her, disturbed, as this epidemic becomes personal.
After each witnessing a variety of horrors, Carly and Damon (good thing too because this guy can take a hit) head to her house to check on her brother. Things get especially wild from here as her parents each get home.
What makes this film so original and funny is the consistent shift in tone. This isn’t unfocused rage with attacks on just anyone, there is a purpose here. The parents are so completely consumed with their children’s demises that it feels normal. They still interact with others ordinarily which adds a sort of twilight-zone peculiarity.
When Cage’s own parents (Lance Henriksen and Marilyn Dodds Frank) come for dinner their first proclivity is to stab him. This gives the story an even wider birth, plus it allows us to see father chasing son chasing son, which is quite hilarious.
Taylor also wrote the screenplay which allows for plenty of comedy while still maintaining an ominous undertone. There are flashbacks of happier times, interwoven wonderfully for contrast. While the parents specifically shine in their insanity, all the performances are terrific. Cage is convincingly menacing, and Selma Blair portrays Kendall with a keen ferocity.
Conclusion: Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad works to exemplify the identity issues one might encounter when they give their all into parenting. It then reshapes it into an terrifying concept.
At a mere 83 minutes, there may be some areas that could have used more depth, but its quick pace and editing adds to the tension. For the most part, Mom and Dad isn’t here to provide answers (which includes its abrupt end) but to shock and awe – effectively doing so.
The violence isn’t overbearing, Brian Taylor is sensitive with what he chooses to show. Mom and Dad maintains its absurdity, while not completely abandoning its eerie core. The reason this story works is because it plays off a very personal, instinctual source. Parents defend their young.
Until they become their prey.
What was your reaction to the film? Did it make you laugh, scream, cringe? Let us know in the comments!
Mom and Dad will be released in theaters in the US on January 19, 2018. For all international release dates, see here.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.