Director: Brian Taylor
Screenplay: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert T. Cunningham
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Mom and Dad is a madcap, nasty piece of trash cinema the kind of which would have played well as a low-budget exploitation picture in the 1970s, opening as such with a highly stylised opening title sequence that evokes the feel of classic drive-in grindhouse cinema.
But like the best of those horror pictures, this has a point that it's trying to make, or at least an overriding theme that it's trying to convey in the midst of the madness. The plot itself concerns a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own kids. The taboo-pushing nature of which is used to focus on the strained relationship between parents Brent and Kendall Ryan (Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair) and their children Carly and Josh (Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur).
The idea being exploited is the concept of one being supplanted by the younger generations. Brent and Kendall have settled into banal and ageing lives, as they live out their disappointing days in the quiet acceptance that their lives are over. As youths, they were free spirits with their own dreams and ambitions but now relegated to obsolescence in a world moving on without them.
So, like the many parents around them storming the schools after their own children, the film descends into a brutal and manic chamber piece as the children board themselves in various rooms as Mom and Dad try their best to cooperatively murder them with an increasing assortment of traps and power tools.
It’s pretty single-minded, but it works because of the elements at play being used to great potential. Writer/director Brian Taylor – one half of the insane Neveldine/Taylor duo behind the Crank movies – throws everything he can at the screen with a furious enthusiasm. Propelling the digital frame through the ruckus of the scenes and having an immense amount of bloody fun playing with the conventional stables, and how the generational gap has furthered tearing the traditional all-American family unit apart.
The other component that works are the lead performances. While the young actors are very good and handling the situation, the film belongs to the power couple of Cage and Blair. Cage is allowed to unleash in a way he’s not allowed as often as he should on screen, screaming and cackling through every scene and playing it so arch and unhinged as he tears apart the pool table of his man cave with a sledgehammer singing the hokey pokey loudly to himself. Blair is the more mannered of the two, and joyfully emotes through her earlier scenes of familial despair and eye-rolling before becoming something far more dangerous and calculating later on.
Mom and Dad offers many surprises over its short runtime, but the biggest is that its wild premise and execution manage to pay off with resonance and thrill outside of the opportunity to see Cage let rip once again. Ending on a perfect final note so abruptly that it will leave viewers with the hearty gut laugh to round it all off.