Director: Brian Taylor
Screenplay: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Selma Blair, Lance Henriksen, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur
Duration: 86 min
BBFC Certification: 15
I’m a parent. I have two wonderful kids who I love and dote on. However, they know how to wind me up – in fact, all kids seem to be able to do this to their parents. I have been pushed to my limit many times, and I am sure that this is familiar to all parents. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of us would never harm our kids, so we suck it in and get on with it. Mom and Dad is a black comedy that presents (in its own madcap way) with the question of “What If?”
Mom and Dad is the first film written and directed solely by Brian Taylor (who previously wrote and directed the Crank films and Gamer as part of the duo Neveldine & Taylor). The film opens with the typical dysfunctional suburban family – teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters) resents her parents because they don’t understand her. Her younger brother Joshua (Zackary Arthur) is an ADHD nightmare who tears around the house jettisoning toys everywhere. And then there’s Mom and Dad – Kendall (Selma Blair) who is having a hard time accepting her kids are getting older and no longer need her and Brent (Nicholas Cage) who is in full blown mid-life crisis, bemoaning his lack of energy and enthusiasm.
There are clues that something is wrong, most notably an early scene with a woman driving her car onto some train tracks and leaving it there, the oncoming train smashing the car to bits – but these mostly happen in the background or off camera. Then suddenly, some sort of signal begins to transmit in the static of TVs, messing with the minds of parents. The natural instinct to protect their offspring is replaced by an inescapable urge to kill them.
We follow Carly go about her day at school completely oblivious to what is happening. That is until a horde of parents arrive at the school gates calling for their children, in a scene that recalls the zombie movies of George A. Romero, soon leading to carnage that rivals the infamous church scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service. Carly escapes to her best friend’s house only her to witness her be strangled by her mother. She then realises something is wrong, and rushes home to protect Joshua before her parents get there.
On the surface Mom and Dad is schlocky B movie with a great central concept. However, dig a little deeper and you can see that it is a satire about the cultural divides between generations. Brent is a bored office work who sleeps at his desk, while Kendall is a housewife who gave up her career to bring up the kids. Neither of them really understand their kids, whilst their daughter is typically attached to her phone by an invisible umbilical cord, who sees her parents as lame. Later in the film, Brent’s parents arrive and his father (Lance Henriksen), a Vietnam veteran, shows disdain for his son’s failure to follow him into service.
Cage is obviously the star here and it’s clear that Taylor has written the script with him in mind, meaning that most of the other characters are woefully underwritten. He especially seems to have problem writing female characters, although both Blair and Winters do wonderfully with what they are given – but don’t get me started on the Chinese housekeeper, a character so offensively stereotypical she could have stepped out of a 1970s British sitcom.
But back to Cage – an actor so over the top that many directors have tried to reign him in, but Taylor has obviously told him to just go for it. So what you get his quite possibly the most batshit crazy performance he has ever committed to celluloid. Case in point – during a flashback, Brent buys a pool table which we see him putting together and then painstakingly adjust to get it perfectly level. When Kendall questions him about the need for a man cave, Brent picks up a sledgehammer and destroys the table in a display of extreme rage. Performed by any other actor, the scene would just come across as nonsensical, but with Cage dialling up the insanity level to 11 you just go with it.
Brian Taylor is famous for his high octane action movies, such as the aforementioned Crank films and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and he brings his established approach to Mom and Dad – kinetic cuts, extreme angles, a stylised retro 70s credit sequence and an overbearing pounding dubstep soundtrack. And how many times do we need to see the same sequence of a gurning teenage Brent having sex with a topless girl in a Trans-Am whilst performing burnouts? If Taylor was trying to make an effective horror film, he has largely failed due to his decision to not tame is excessive directorial style. That being said, there are some truly disturbing images throughout the film.
Although I feel the central concept is wasted, I would still recommend Mom and Dad to fans of dark horror comedies. Just prepare yourself for a film that is coming headlong at you at 200 mph, with Nicolas Cage hanging out of the driver’s window chugging can after can of Red Bull. Subtle? Not this film …
Mom and Dad is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Universal Pictures