08th Mar2018

‘Mom and Dad’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert T. Cunningham, Lance Henriksen, Marilyn Dodds Frank, Samantha Lemole, Olivia Crocicchia, Adin Steckler, Rachel Melvin, Sharon Gee | Written and Directed by Brian Taylor


“My parents are going to kill me”. That’s a standard line from any number of teen movies, but it’s taken literally in this glorious comic horror from writer-director Brian Taylor (the Crank franchise), here reuniting with star Nic Cage after Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

True to Taylor’s frenetic style, Mom and Dad wastes no time in getting down to business. An unexplained epidemic has caused every parent to have violent, murderous impulses towards their own children, despite remaining seemingly normal in all other aspects. After a superb early sequence in which dozens of parents gather ominously at a high school before attacking their offspring, the focus narrows to the Ryan family: Mom Kendall (Selma Blair), Dad Brent (Cage), teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters) and little brother Joshua (Zachary Arthur).

When Carly realises what’s going on, she rushes home to protect Joshua, only to find herself under vicious attack from Mom and Dad. Barricading themselves in the basement, Carly and Joshua attempt to devise an escape route, as Brent goes full Jack Torrance and tries to hack down the door with a Sawzall.

Cage has built a devoted cult following on the back of his more unhinged performances and he’s on spectacular form here, whether bemoaning the state of his middle-aged, “cottage cheese ass” or continually espousing the virtues of his weapon-of-choice (“You know why it’s called a Sawzall? Because it saws all!”) Indeed, the film is worth seeing for his bizarrely high-pitched pronunciation of the mf-word alone.

You might expect Cage’s gleefully bonkers performance to over-shadow everyone else, but Selma Blair gives as good as she gets as Kendall, generating sparky chemistry with Cage, especially in their mid-attack domestic conversations. By contrast, Winters and Arthur play it entirely straight to strong effect and there are late-arriving cameos from Lance Henriksen and Marilyn Dodds Frank that bring an inspired twist to the final act.

Taylor’s fast-paced direction may seem chaotic, but it’s remarkably assured throughout, maintaining a tricky balance of tone and ensuring that the moments of caustic satire hit as hard as the moments of gore and violence. He also knows when to hold back for maximum effect, as evidenced by one of the film’s most chilling images, a line of fathers staring through the windows at their newborn infants in a maternity ward. (An accompanying scene of Kendall’s sister giving birth is another horrific highlight).

In addition, the script has a lot of fun with character detail, suggesting that both Mom and Dad are already close to breaking point, with an increasingly exasperated Kendall failing to connect with her daughter, and Brent lamenting the loss of his carefree youth, as illustrated by a topless flashback scene that deserves some sort of award for bare-faced gratuitousness. Similarly, the script gets some blackly comic mileage out of the idea of mother-daughter jealousy through the use of Kendall’s cougar-like best friend Jenna (Samantha Lemole), the mother of Carly’s ill-fated best friend Riley (Olivia Crocicchia).

By turns chilling, thrilling and laugh-out-loud funny, this is a riotous and fast-paced comic horror that makes the most of its cleverly conceived premise and delivers a blissfully demented Nic Cage performance that’s up there with his best work.

**** 4/5

Mom and Dad is on limited release across the Uk from Friday March 9th.

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