Written and directed by Brian Taylor (THE Taylor from the Neveldine/Taylor relationship that gave us the likes of the Crank movies and Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance), Mom And Dad is a mix of horror and black comedy that allows the writer-director to creep into fresh territory while not having to move too far out of his comfort zone. You still get moments that are full of quick editing and action, you still get a film that sets up the main premise and then follows it through to a satisfying finale with pacing that seems to gather momentum through every main sequence, and you get plenty individual moments of outright madness.
Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair play Brent and Kendall Ryan, respectively. They have a teenage daughter (Anne Winters) and a younger son (Zackary Arthur). They seem like quite a decent family unit, squabbles and stresses and all. That looks unlikely to last when a mysterious force starts to cause parents to turn into raging psychos who must kill their children. Can Cage and Blair resist the force? Considering how crazy he can be at the best of times, it seems unlikely that Cage will resist for long. And Blair is just as susceptible as everyone else.
Taking every minor irritation and turning it up to 11, Mom And Dad quickly becomes a collage of seething resentment and retribution. It's almost, perhaps, a dark and extreme fantasy for every parent who has been pushed to the very edge of sanity by a foot-stamping child. It's the ultimate punchline to any of those arguments that end with parents calling for a little gratitude and for their offspring to just consider how much they have had given to them over the years. The tagline sums that up: "They brought you into this world. They can take you out."
Cage and Blair are both a hell of a lot of fun, whether trying to make sense of the situation unfolding around them or unleashing all of their rage. Even their "quieter" moments, shown at the start of the film and very occasionally throughout the film, are enjoyably off-kilter. That's not because they're acting badly. It's because viewers know what is going on and can enjoy the weight in each line of dialogue and the small inconveniences that may well help to fuel them once they start to see red. Winters and Arthur are also very good, both spending a lot of their time trying to keep themselves alive while wondering just what the hell is happening around them, and Robert Cunningham has some very good scenes. He's going out with the daughter of the Ryans, making him an even more obvious target for the anger as it starts to burst out of the adults.
But all of this talk of the comedic nature of the material and performances (and I should also mention that Lance Henriksen makes a welcome appearance, although not for too long) shouldn't make you think that this is an easy watch. It IS, for the most part, but there are some scenes here that are unrelentingly tense and brutal, including one scene that has immediately become one of the most uncomfortable things I have seen in the past decade. You might think I'm exaggerating. See how you feel once you have watched the film for yourself.
Taylor has, for better or worse (depending on your views on their work), given people a film that easily sits alongside his collaborative efforts with Mark Neveldine. If he keeps going along this path, making the best of a strong central premise while pushing at the edges of territory he is more familiar with, then he might end up with a damn fine filmography to look back on. If we all continue to overlook that second Ghost Rider movie. And maybe Jonah Hex, even if I am one of the few people who quite enjoyed it.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy it here.