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Never before have I witnessed anything as insane, nor as insanely darkly funny, as Mom and Dad. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen Nicolas Cage on the big screen; despite him being one of my favourite actors, I’ve only ever seen him on my TV or computer or laptop. So this was a first for me, and in a weird kind of way, it made sense, as Cage returns to his horror roots here to deliver a crazed, epic performance about a dad who goes nuts and wants to kill his kids. Yeah, you read that right. Parents are the pillars of a kids’ world, yet writer-director Brian Taylor decides to take that concept and obliterate it entirely, as in this film, all parents are brainwashed by static that forces them to turn on their own kids and murder them. They won’t turn on other children; just their own. And that’s the interesting concept posited here: adults can actually look after kids, providing those kids don’t share any kind of direct link to the adults in question. But as soon as you’re looking your own child(ren) in the eye, that’s it, it’s murder time. Naturally, if this was told from the adult’s point of view, it would be a darkly twisted, satirical comedy. But it isn’t: it’s told from the kid’s viewpoint.
More specifically, Carly Ryan’s (Anne Winters) point of view, the older daughter of mom and dad, Kendall Ryan (Selma Blair) and Brent Ryan (Cage). She has to look after her kid brother, Josh Ryan (Zachary Arthur) as their parents hunt them down in a bloodlust fuelled rage. Just to make this even more warped and strangely amusing, the static that bewitches the adults first tricks them into thinking that they need to save their children; the protective gear of mothers and fathers alike kicks in, drawing them back home to their babies. And, yes, there are literal babies in this movie, literal babies who have just been born to loving, expectant parents… who are about to turn on their newborns and kill them. That’s not all: parents want to attack their children. So if you take that comment and think about it, it translates to kid’s grandparents wanting to attack their own children – the kid’s parents. This warped idea is actually oddly clever on the face of it, because when the carnage first erupts – at Carly’s high school, no less – all you can think about is the direct link of adults and kids. You don’t immediately jump to adults and adults. Nor does the film; it takes time to get to that point, and there is one particular scene that is quite funny despite the severity of the situation.
There is no seriousness to this movie other than the fact that the children are fighting (or mostly running and hiding) for their lives. Even though it’s posited as a horror film, I would argue the case that if you have a dark and twisted sense of humour, you can definitely find yourself laughing in parts of Mom and Dad. A lot of the movie takes place in the Ryan’s house, which translates to a lot of almost claustrophobic scenes as the children are constantly running from their idols and protectors. And because it is set largely inside the home, lots of household items are used inventively, such as Chekov’s toy truck; from the moment you see it onscreen, you know that it’s going to come up later on. There are also knives, their own cars, a chainsaw, and fire (although the last isn’t necessarily a primary household object, it is still used inside the house when the kids have outsmarted their parents). Or so they think: the antics are constantly ramped up, as Brent and Kendall are relentless in their endeavours to reach their own children, allowing nothing to stand in their path – even Carly’s well-meaning boyfriend, Damon Hall (Robert T. Cunningham). The static is something that is never addressed, but with all the warped and amusing insanity that is unfolding on screen before your eyes, you don’t really stop to think about it. This is surface level entertainment at its best.
Cage is sublime in his role as loving-turned-murder dad here, as he goes on a literal, blood-drenched, psycho-crazed rampage that takes away most of his mental faculties other than the primal need to destroy. What have the kids done? Nothing. Why are they killing the kids? Because of the static. Do you care? Not particularly; it’s funny. Cage’s performance delivers the crazy in spades, and this is perhaps emphasised the most when he is running around screaming at the top of his voice, eyes bulging with madness, and Fruit Loops stuck to his face. There are moments of respite from this wild ride, whereby we witness normal conversations between Brent and Kendall through the medium of flashbacks, but even these have a certain level of tension to them, an underlying issue that needs to be addressed but never is. What is perhaps the darkest part of Mom and Dad is that it takes the concept of kids being annoying to parents, and extrapolates it in an extremely dark and twisted way. Mom and Dad is a brilliantly dark horror/comedy that is violent and crazy and unrelenting, yet due to the ludicrous lunacy of everything, you’re safe in your assurance that it’s not going to ever happen. But on the off chance that you do hear some weird and random static… maybe hide away for the next twenty-four hours.
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