'Mom and Dad'
Here’s a good idea for a sicko horror comedy: The world is suddenly stricken by a plague that forces parents to kill their children. The rest kind of fills in itself, in a good way. It’s the sort of thing that has to be gleefully tasteless and over the top. Thankfully, ‘Mom and Dad’ comes from one of the co-writers/co-directors of ‘Crank’ and stars Nicolas Cage. Anything less would be a waste.
Things kick off with the audience being introduced to our central dysfunctional family. Teen daughter Carly (Annie Winters) is, like, so over this family unit, and young son Josh (Zackary Arthur) is still in the tossing-toys-around-the-living-room phase of childhood. Selma Blair plays Mommy, who’s having a hard time dealing with her daughter pulling away and the fact that she gave up her career. Daddy is Nic Cage in midlife crisis mode. Feel free to fill in the blanks. They all go about their respective days and have their respective indignities. Then, parents across the country start feeling an inexplicable desire to kill their children. Suddenly, everyone in the fam is either surrounded or consumed by madness. Obviously, they all end up back home for the climax. Where else could it happen?
As per usual, director Brian Taylor shoots his movie like an ADHD eye-fuck. That’s just how he works. Every shot is from an odd angle, every color is vibrant, edits come furiously, and you’re always off-balance. It’s a little distracting because, unlike a ‘Crank’ movie, ‘Mom and Dad’ has setup and pacing. The story ramps up to madness, but the way to the film is put together is always cranked to 11. That can be a little much early on, but boy oh boy does it ever suit the movie when things get nuts.
Acting is amusing all around since everyone has a perversely exaggerated role to play. Selma Blair manages to deliver a surprisingly measured and human performance for the most part, which keeps things as grounded as possible. However, this is first and foremost the Nicolas Cage show. He may not appear in the first half of the movie as much as many would like, but the back half offers Cage at the most unhinged he’s been in years. He sledgehammers through a pool table while singing “The Hokey Pokey” and graphically tongues a beer can while have an inappropriate conversation with his son. It’s a magically manic turn that’s always at least three or four notches over the top and never boring. This guy knows what he’s doing and has a movie just heightened enough to contain his slapstick insanity. ‘Mom and Dad’ could probably work without Nic Cage, but we’ll never know for sure.
‘Mom and Dad’ is made in deliciously bad taste, going out of its way to pile taboos on top of each other for the sake of shocks and comedy. It’s a horror movie, but never tries to be particularly scary. It’s a sensory assault. The movie has some mild commentary about how children destroy their parents’ lives no matter how much love is involved. It’s played loudly enough to be impossible to miss even if it doesn’t always feel coherent – just enough to make it feel like all this insanity is about something.
Of course, the real reason to watch this movie is just to revel in the ludicrous excesses that Taylor, Cage and company indulge in. They’ve made a dirty B-movie that feels genuinely subversive and fun. Sure, it ain’t perfect, but it’s worth going on the wild and wacky ride.