Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and God Hates Geeks.
A Fantastically Enjoyable Yet Absurdly Fueled Adrenaline Rush
I would say that I’m not a big Brian Taylor fan. I did not like Crank, but have always been intrigued by the potential of the sequel. I never saw Gamer, but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is somewhat of a guilty pleasure since Nicolas Cage is allowed to unleash the schlong-out, balls-flapping-in-the-wind insanity he’s become notorious for over the years. Mom and Dad was one of the films screened at midnight at Fantastic Fest 2017 and it is one of a handful of films I walked out of over the course of the film festival. After being exhausted after seeing 5-6 films a day, the first 30 or so minutes of Mom and Dad seemed cheesy and overacted and it was taking entirely too long for Nic Cage to take his straitjacket off. Sleep seemed like a better option at the time, but thankfully giving the film a second chance made Mom and Dad one of the first memorable theatrical film experiences of 2018.
According to Nic Cage, Mom and Dad is his favorite film to have been a part of in the past decade. While this probably doesn’t mean much to most reading that statistic, it does overlook the undervalued Ghost Rider sequel and Werner Herzog’s accidentally brilliant pseudo-reboot of Abel Ferrera’s 1992 Harvey Keitel starring crime thriller Bad Lieutenant entitled Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Cage also seems like the type of actor who doesn’t turn down work very often as he stars in multiple projects every year (seven films in 2017 alone and 36 films total in the past ten years), so that adds some weight to Mom and Dad being the highlight for him.
Mom and Dad chronicles a 24-hour period where parents suddenly have the urge to start killing their children. This feverish madness engulfs an entire suburban town resulting in bloodshed and carnage the likes of which can usually only be found in zombie films. Cage portrays Brent Ryan, a working family man who constantly reminisces about his rebellious youth. His wife Kendall (Selma Blair) is entirely invested in their teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters) being more interested in boys and partying over no longer being her mother’s best friend. The film also stars Zachary Arthur as Carly’s obnoxious younger brother Josh, newcomer Robert T. Cunningham as Carly’s boyfriend Damon, Joseph D. Reitman as Carly’s homeroom teacher, and Lance Henriksen in what is arguably one of his best glorified cameos to date.
The horror comedy is incredibly simple in its execution with the parents’ murderous rampage being the driving factor behind the intention of the film. On one hand, you appreciate that Brian Taylor doesn’t try to make Mom and Dad something it isn’t with long, drawn out storytelling or character development that would probably just be wasted anyway. At the same time though, you crave some of those aspects in this film. No reason or purpose is given as to why this is occurring. Static seen on television and hospital monitors is involved in some capacity, but the film refuses to dive deeper into concepts it introduces. It becomes difficult to decipher whether Brian Taylor intentionally wanted to leave the audience drooling for a more concrete story structure or that this is simply lazy storytelling.
My girlfriend is a teacher who teaches eighth grade math and her students are some of the laziest, most reprehensible, and unethically violent sperm-babies in existence. I was generally worried about how she’d react to this since she loathes horror films, but in a way Mom and Dad is an amazing form of release if you deal with the stupid, unwashed populated masses of the earth on a consistent basis. Mom and Dad feels like it is written by someone who channeled that hatred of the general public or whatever the hell modern day youth is becoming and turned into blood-soaked mayhem that 30-somethings and beyond can cheer for; it’s similar to how some play violent video games to relieve stress. In its own weird yet kind of beautiful kind of way, horror films save lives and while Mom and Dad isn’t necessarily life changing it’s a film that certainly makes hectic, everyday life easier to deal with.
The film also has no ending. Nothing is wrapped up or concluded in any way, shape, or form. Mom and Dad simply catches its breath after an unbelievably swift 83-minute runtime and the end credits basically interrupt this fantastically enjoyable yet absurdly fueled adrenaline rush you can’t help but completely succumb to. And again, you can’t tell if this is what Brian Taylor intended; maybe everything is being purposely left wide open for a potential sequel or hopeful franchise to fill in the gaps and expand on in the future or maybe the film is taking the older horror film formula concept of “less is more” and purposely chose not to give much background to the hysteria on-screen since explaining everything in full often ruins what can be left to an open and untampered imagination.
Mom and Dad is Nicolas Cage in his purest form. There are no restraints or studio executives claiming he needs to portray the character in a certain way. Nic Cage is absolutely unhinged in Mom and Dad and it is a hilariously memorable spectacle to behold. In between tickle fights and eating breakfast bars, Cage is screaming profanities at closed doors, tripping on toy trucks, and dismantling a newly built pool table with a sledgehammer in the most maniacal and lunacy-charged way only Nicolas freaking Cage knows how. This is what you came to see, folks. The rest of the cast feels like a gullible boy band while Nic Cage is the lead singer of a death metal army who annihilates his surroundings and gets stabbed repeatedly in the leg by Lance Henriksen.
Mom and Dad is missing a ton of fundamentals that make an ordinary film iconic. Its storyline is paper thin and its narrative feels like it never made its way out of the introductory phase, but nobody channels their inner psychopath quite like Nicolas Cage and his laugh out loud hysterical and fantastically neurotic performance could end up turning a flawed film into a cult classic in a short period of time.
© 2018 Chris Sawin