Overview: Siblings fight to survive after their parents succumb to a murderous mania; Armory Films; 2018; Rated R; 123 minutes.
Savaging: There is an ethological phenomenon among animals – primarily domestic pigs – called “savaging”. The term refers to an act of violence or murder committed by a mother upon her own offspring. While contributing factors have been identified, nobody really knows for sure exactly why this occurs, and it has fascinated and horrified industries and scientists for quite some time.
Watching a pig crush her own infants is disturbing, to say the least, but knowing that humans are not exempt from this behaviour is horrifying. This is the horror Brian Taylor hopes to exploit in his latest adrenaline-fueled horror comedy, Mom and Dad. Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair star as Brent and Kendall Ryan, the eponymous Mom and Dad who, along with every other parent, succumb to an unexplained murder frenzy for 24 hours. The only victims are the parents’ own children.
Thinking Cap: Taylor’s style doesn’t present a thoughtful film for the more philosophical type. This is a major missed opportunity for what could have been a bold, risky piece of work.. Fortunately, he and his cast are dedicated to driving the crazy train all the way to its bloody end. Where Mom and Dad only hints at meaningful conversations to be had, it goes all in filled to the brim with the frenetic, gleeful murder (and attempted murder) of children that will disturb some viewers but almost certainly delight genre fans.
The story manages a fair balance between the perspective of the bloodthirsty parents and their terrified children. Anne Winters works bitchy teen to full effect as Carly and rolls with her transition to a sort of hero, playing off Selma Blair’s passable facade of perfect motherhood. At first she’s more concerned about banging her boyfriend than anything else, but once they realize what’s going on her attention turns to rescuing her younger brother.
Nicolas Cage is, unsurprisingly, the strongest player in the game. Though absent for much of the first half, his reappearance is welcome. Knowing his gift of playing characters just teetering on the edge makes watching him exciting. The audience is eager for the theatrical breakdown that’s sure to follow and he delivers the goods. The first brutal slap follows a look of crazed serenity that only he can pull off and as he descends his outbursts are more and more entertaining culminating in destruction serenaded by the Hokey Pokey.
Getting Real: Brent and Kendall separately mourn the loss of their youth and slowly come to the realization that neither of them have a life outside of their children. Together they bond over the cathartic release they’ll obtain when they finally murder Carly and Josh (Zackary Arthur), who put up a fair fight for their survival throughout. It’s refreshing to see this kind of honesty about parenthood, even if it has to be made into caricature and farse.
Outside of the core cast, performances leave something to be desired with weak, cheesy line readings from support and an uncomfortable portrayal of the housekeeper, Sun-Yi, played by Sharon Gee. Tropes abound and the movie ends on an unsteady callback, never really reaching its full potential. Paired with the distracting editing and constant pace, this makes Mom and Dad a bumpy journey.
Overall: Mom and Dad takes a great, terrifying idea and turns it into fun and games. It’s a thrilling and adventurous ride that’s soon forgotten once your feet return to the ground.