Mom and Dad (2017) ****

March 7th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Brian Taylor | Cast: Nicholas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert Cunningham, Samantha Lemole | USA 2017 | 86′.

Director/writer Brian Taylor, co-creator of Gamer and Crank, delivers the perfect American nightmare: what would happen TV stations all gave up the ghost, and sent coded messages ordering loving middle-class parents to kill their off-spring?. This is not simply a schlock horror movie: it is set very much in the psychological reality of suburban America, where parental love and even sacrifice is the stable diet of all sugar-coated Hollywood films.

Parents Brent (Cage) and Kendall (Blair) are fighting middle-age disappointment: he is frustrated by his reduced means:“Ten years ago I earned 145 000$, now it 45 000$”), she is driven crazy by her attempts to look twenty again. Meanwhile son Josh (Arthur) is still in pre-puberty, and daughter Carly (Winters) drives her parents mad, as the teenager from Hell, her placid boyfriend Damon (Cunningham) is the only one not getting in her way. When the TV incident occurs, Kendall is in hospital, where her sister Jenna (Lemole) is giving birth to a baby – which she immediately tries to kill – Kendall, not yet affected by the curse, helps to save the newly born. But at home she joins her husband in a mad pursuit to kill Josh and Carly – their rage so virulent, that they overlook the body of the housekeeper’s child, murdered by the mother. Damon does his best to defend the children, who are locked in the cellar, while Mum and Dad come up with a new idea: poisoning by gas. When Brent’s parents arrive in midst of the chaos, the former finds out, that old age is not a barrier to child murder.

What make Mom and Dad so realistic is the use of exactly the same aesthetics used by Hollywood to promote the nuclear family: all is clean, antiseptic, feelings (apart from Carly) are repressed, everything is secondary to getting the show on the road every morning: impressing the neighbours and keeping up the gold-standard of superficiality and intellectual banality. This dream, perpetuated in the media, is now simply turned on its head: It is now the most efficient child killer who is top of the ratings. This is a role written for Nicholas Cage, who rises demon-like to the occasion, with Blair not far behind. The American home is a battle-field devastated by the forces of parental revenge. DoP Daniel Pearl indulges in a pastel colours prelude to the gory terror of the uprising: the schoolyard scenes are a terrific example of parental mob violence. Even the ending delivers a refreshing twist – anything but a new beginning. Provocative and brave, Mom and Dad is a incendiary tour-de-force of America’s middle-class dreams descending into Hell. AS


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