This week, one of my most anticipated movies of…ever, is finally being released. From the minute I heard the premise of Mom and Dad, I knew I had to get my eyes in front of it immediately. It has everything I love in movies. It has horror elements, it’s a jet black comedy, it stars an off the rails Nicolas Cage, and it’s from the director of Crank. What more could you want? I finally got the chance to watch the film, and here’s what I thought.
First, Mom and Dad is actually about a virus that is spread through static sound waves that causes parents to want to kill their children, any age, from infant to adults. The film primarily focuses on Carly, the daughter of the Ryan’s, played by Selma Blair and Nicolas Cage. We see the story unfold through her point of view as the virus spreads from her school to her home. She must protect her brother Josh as Mom and Dad do everything in their power to try to destroy their children.
So, did the film deliver on its simple and awesome premise? Mostly yes, it did. What works best in the film are the moments that embrace the absurdity of the premise. There’s a moment early on in the film that takes place early on in a maternity ward set to Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love that truly pushes the film to the levels of dark comedy that I so enjoy.
My only real problem with the film is that it didn’t commit one hundred percent to how far they could have pushed the violence to comedic effect. The aforementioned Roxette scene ended sooner that it should have, and it could have been so much more sick than it was. There was only one more moment near the end of the film, this time set to Erasure’s Chains of Love, that delivered on the promise of the film with the sick glee I anticipated going in.
Now, I’m saying I wanted a movie full of violence against children set to 80s pop songs, but those scenes so deftly marked the absurd violence with a sickly comedic undertone that the rest of the movie couldn’t quite grasp. Mom and Dad shifts from silly humor to domestic drama too much and gives us too little to sink our teeth into in the center of the film. This isn’t a major problem because the dramatic and comedic scenes work well, but the blending isn’t as smooth as I’d hoped it would be.
Another thing that just missed the mark was the under-use of Nicolas Cage. He fucking commits in this movie and we get to see some Vampire’s Kiss-level Cage Rage. Unfortunately, that’s only in the last 45 minutes of the movie. The plot allows it so that we see Cage become infected early on, but then we just abandon him for a while before he gets to shine. The filmmakers should know, when Cage is on, you turn him loose.
That said, Cage is so amazing and fun to watch in this movie. He even delivers in the more dramatic scenes in the movie. I think we’re about to see the return of Academy Award winning Nicolas Cage soon. He’s due for an awards-level comeback. Selma Blair is also fantastic in the film. Her turn to infection is more subtle and you never really know what side she’s playing. Blair’s always great in genre films, but she really shines here. I’ll push this thought even further. Even the kid actors are great in the film. I was ready to write off Anne Winter’s Carly as another annoying teenager in a genre film, but she turns the character slowly into someone you root for, which is a testament to a great performance.
Mom and Dad gives us some other cool cinematic treats to chew on. There’s some good gore later on in the film for the gorehounds. Plus, Brian Taylor, who both wrote and directed the film, sneaks in some of his trademark frenetic editing and camerawork that he established in the Crank movies when he was part of the Neveldine/Taylor duo. The movie’s runtime is a quick 83 minutes and the movie just breezes along. I never felt like checking the time counter and was honestly surprised when the movie was over how fast it all went.
Overall, I really liked Mom and Dad, but it didn’t fully deliver on being the black comedy masterpiece I’d hoped it would be. With all the right elements in place, and my anticipation through the ceiling, maybe I overhyped this one for myself. I wish the film had committed to more over the top set pieces. We only get two that I really locked into, unfortunately. Nic Cage gives one of his best performances in years, but I wish the film used more of him. Fans of unhinged, delightfully unhinged, Cage have a lot to dig into here. This is the movie you were waiting for.
MOM & DAD is in Theaters and on VOD and Digital HD on this Friday, January 19, 2018