I almost missed this because, from the anodyne title, I assumed it was a comedy.
Actually it's an action thriller, or horror movie. And a comedy. A very dark comedy.
It's a flip on the conventional zombie movie — there's a whole sub-genre of films which aren't actually about the dead rising and eating the living, but are much the same set-up with a more plausible plot: like The Rage or Rabid, or perhaps even The Purge trilogy, in which ordinary humans are turned, en masse, into relentless killing machines and nowhere is safe.
But Mom and Dad has a uniquely inventive – some might say sick — twist on this. One day, for no explained reason, parents start killing their children. This gives rise to large quantities of the blackest of black humour and Nicolas Cage as the dad in the title really rises to the occasion.
This is both horrifying
and hilarious. It’s a fabulous conceit. There’s a terrifically
disturbing and chilling bit where the camera just moves past a row of
men staring with blank hostility through a window into the hospital area
where all the babies lie in their cots.
The movie begins with a wide viewpoint, as we see the entire community and (through television reports) the nation at large descending into this kind of mob bloodshed. Then it narrows down to focus on just one family, consisting of Cage plus Selma Blair as the mom and Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur as the kids Carly and Josh.
And it becomes a tightly contained cat-and-mouse game in their home with the parents seeking to slay their offspring, who are understandably none too keen on the prospect.
Mom and Dad is written and directed by Brian Taylor, formerly of Neveldine and Taylor, the screenwriting partnership who wrote the Crank movies and Pathology. (As a solo act Taylor directed Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, which starred Cage.)
Neveldine and Taylor were a writing team which specialised in lurid pulp adventures characterised by ferocious energy and unashamed excess. They were also, less appealingly, all too often characterised by a willingness to sacrifice their story concepts and logic for the sake of plot convenience and cheap thrills — as in the case of Pathology. And now Mom and Dad.
At the end of this movie there’s a splendid gag where Cage and Selma Blair are finally about to finish off their kids... and the doorbell rings. Mom and Dad look at each other. "It's your parents," says Blair. "They're coming over for dinner." "That's tonight?" says Cage, in a classic dismayed domestic exchange.
But of course, as soon as Grandma and Granddad are through the door they set about trying to kill Cage. Which saves the kids' bacon. Wonderful stuff, And very funny.
However, at this point Taylor loses sight of his own logic — or perhaps deliberately abandons it for short term gains. Because while granddad — Lance Henriksen — goes after Cage, grandma goes after Selma Blair, i.e. her daughter in law.
Which makes no story sense at all. This murderous plague, whatever it is, only affects parents in regard to their own children.
Instead, while her elderly hubby is trying his level best to murder their son, Grandma should have been saying to Selma Blair, “Oh I tried that meat loaf recipe you gave me and it was wonderful.”
Nevertheless this is a standout black comedy/horror movie hybrid. As a social commentary it isn't remotely in the league of Get Out, but it's nevertheless an audacious, over-the-top, furious and bloodthirsty little gem.
(Image credits: thank you Imp Awards.)