Directed by: Brian Taylor
Premise: Parents in a suburban community are overcome by a mysterious compulsion to murder their own children. A brother and sister (Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur) must survive their murderous parents (Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair).
What Works: Mom and Dad is a black comedy made with energy and style. The concept is admittedly goofy—parents are overcome with an irresistible urge to kill their children and their murderous impulses are very specific; none of the adults are interested in hurting anyone else’s children. The filmmakers embrace the silliness of the concept but they also commit to the material. As silly as the concept might be, the action of Mom & Dad is presented credibly and the violence is visceral and occasionally bloody. The juxtaposition of brutal violence with moments of suburban banality makes for some sharp comedy. Mom and Dad plays as a tale of survival that is not all that different from a zombie picture and it satisfies in many of the same ways. The story unfolds from the point of view of a pair of siblings played by Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur; the two of them evade the craziness that has overtaken the outside world and barricade themselves in the basement of their house. The second half of the picture plays as a home invasion story and as such it’s well done. The movie possesses a primal and anarchic energy that is both absorbing and upsetting. Credit for the film working as well as it does belongs to the filmmakers who stage the action so well but also to the cast who commit to the material. Young actors Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur make the threat to their lives credible and engage the audience to care about their survival. Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair play the parents with murderous abandon and they make the homicidal adults convincing. Cage and Blair get a lot of the comedy and they make it work. The early scenes establish these people as a functional and recognizable family but the violent second half is just as convincing and that makes the film distressing.
What Doesn’t: Mom and Dad is primarily a concept and style piece. It’s a wacky conceit executed with a mordant sense of humor similar to films like Serial Mom and Parents and viewers will either get it and go along with the filmmakers or they won’t. Those who get Mom and Dad ought to enjoy it but plenty of viewers may find the movie too bizarre or deem it to be in bad taste. The conceit of Mom and Dad does seem to be ultimately superficial. Unlike Serial Mom or Parents, which satirized American life, Mom and Dad doesn’t appear to have much to say. It does possess a Freudian subtext about the tension between children and their parents but the movie stops short of suggesting anything substantively subversive.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Mom and Dad is an energetic black comedy. The film is rather thin and its appeal may be limited but Mom and Dad executes its premise with verve and style. This movie is destined to achieve cult status.
Episode: #749 (May 12, 2019)