Watching Mom and Dad is like seeing someone's mid-life crisis unfold on-screen. From Brian Taylor, director of such classics as Crank, Crank 2: High Voltage and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Mom and Dad shoots for the comically insane but ends up a cliché ridden, overacted mess, packed with the same lazy jabs at youth culture seemingly omnipresent in modern cinema. Not even a meme-worthy performance from Nicolas Cage can save this shoddily edited, contrived horror comedy from feeling like anything more than a fever dream of over-the-top gore and under-developed characters.
When a neurological virus causes parents to violently turn on their children, Carly and Josh Ryan (Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur respectively) must defend themselves from their murderous parents, played by Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair. The plot of Mom and Dad is a painfully unsubtle metaphor for the pent-up anger parents supposedly feel for their children for ‘ruining their life' and ‘stopping them from pursuing their dreams'. More accurately, Mom and Dad is a projection of middle-aged male angst, with Cage's character Brent Ryan reminiscing on his wild days, making love to beautiful women in the back of his classic American muscle car. Ick.
Clearly from the plot, the direction and the casting of Nicolas Cage in 2018, Mom and Dad is supposed to be a hyper-realistic film that doesn't take itself too seriously, and in that regard, it succeeds.
The action is insane and improbable and there's some genuinely surprising moments of gore sprinkled throughout. Where Mom and Dad completely falls to pieces is when it tries to be anything but a bat-shit crazy horror-comedy. The film opens with the Ryan family fraying at the seams; Carly is distant from her mother, obsessed with her phone and her older boyfriend. Brent buys a pool table to fill the hole he feels in his life, to wife Kendall's dismay. Zack is of an indeterminate age, he could be 6, he could be 12. He doesn't go to school though, which is odd. The chasm of tonal disparity between these tender family moments and the gruesome gore is sometimes played for comedy, as Brent and Kendall begin to reconnect over murdering their children. However, every character within Mom and Dad is a two-dimensional caricature and, as a result, these would-be emotional moments amount to nothing more than filler between violent murders.
Mom and Dad is directed and edited in a seizure-inducing flash of quick cuts, shaky cam and frenetic camera movements that have become an unfortunate staple of modern action films. It is also an oddly short film, but perhaps that is a good thing. One interesting plot-line involving Kendall's pregnant sister and her boyfriend who is not the baby's father is completely abandoned with no explanation midway through the film which abruptly ends after only eighty-or-so minutes. What could have been a compelling plot twist at the end of the film is so lazily executed that it barely leaves an impression, and the film never even attempts to resolve the aforementioned emotional through-line of a couple brought back together by a shared desire to murder their children.
At the end of the day, your enjoyment of Mom and Dad is going to depend on what you expect to get out of it. If you're looking for a mindless horror comedy with an over-the-top Nicolas Cage performance on a par with The Wicker Man (2005), then you could do a lot worse than Mom and Dad. However, since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Mom and Dad has been described as ‘one of the greatest jet-black comedies of all time' – in the same year where a genuinely great jet-black comedy (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and a brilliant horror-satire (Get Out) are Academy Award nominees for best picture. Mom and Dad is about as subtle as the electric saw which Nicolas Cage's character tries to murder his children with and probably not even the best black comedy of March 2018, let alone all time. Finally, someone ought to keep their eye on the children of the critics responsible for Mom and Dad's acclaim.
Mom and Dad is released on the 2nd of January 2018.
Words by Ethan Megenis-Clarke @_ethanmc
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