What is Mom and Dad?
Set in suburban America on a seemingly normal day, Mom and Dad introduces us to a very average family in the shape of parents Brent (Nicolas Cage) and Kendall (Selma Blair), and their children Carly (Anne Winters) and Josh (Zackary Arthur). But then a mysterious psychosis comes over all the moms and dads in town, convincing them to kill their offspring. And forcing the youngsters to do battle with their folks in order to survive.
Suburban Satire That Turns Violent
Brian Taylor co-wrote and co-directed the wildly over-the-top Crank movies. Nicolas Cage is, well, Nicolas Cage. Put them together and chances are, you’ll get something pretty wild and extreme. Which is just what Mom and Dad is: a none-too-subtle satire on suburban life that’s ridiculous, hilarious, and very, very violent.
We first meet Cage’s family over breakfast, and they have a pretty believable dynamic; the bratty teen daughter arguing with Mom, and Dad putting on a brave face and exchanging banter with his son while at the same time daydreaming about his wild and crazy younger years. It’s like an odd, slightly tone-deaf sitcom.
There are hints that something is afoot, most notably a woman driving her car onto some train tracks and leaving it there; the oncoming locomotive smashing whoever is in said car to bits. But like the early scenes in Shaun of the Dead, the bad stuff plays out in the background or off to the side, so the audience is never quite sure what’s going on.
Let Carnage Commence!
Then it happens. A pulse or signal or some kind of disease messes with the minds of the parents in town. It makes a terrible, inexplicable change in their brains; where natural instinct would usually be to protect their offspring, suddenly they feel the urge to kill them. And what follows is a cacophony of carnage as mother turns on daughter and father turns on son.
It’s shot with Taylor’s trademark hyperactive camerawork, bringing a kinetic energy to the moment the children realise what is happening and panic sets in, and raising the stakes every few minutes as the murders increase and the kids are forced to fight back.
There are some amazing needle-drops on the soundtrack during these scenes, the drama underscored by the mellow likes of Dusty Springfield and Roxette before The Prodigy bring the violence with a grandstanding sequence involving their controversial classic “Smack My B***h Up.”
Peak Nicolas Cage
But you don’t come to a Nicolas Cage film for the tunes. And while at times it’s felt like he’s been phoning it in these past few years, Mom and Dad mercifully features PEAK Nic Cage, the actor turning his performance up to 11 early in proceedings, and then wrenching it further and further up as he becomes ever-more-unhinged.
He hoots and hollers his way through the movie, doing that wide-eyed thing that has you worried they might pop out. And in one glorious sequence, we’re treated to Cage smashing up a pool table while singing the Hokey-Cokey. To say it’s a crowd-pleaser is an understatement.
The first half of the film is concerned with charting the spread of the wave across town. Then Mom and Dad tries to inject some semblance of a plot, revolving around Cage and Blair racing to kill their kids, who in turn have barricaded themselves in the basement.
And again it’s a blast; a twisted game of cat-and-mouse as the parents use bullets and gas and a variety of weapons to finish them off, the children employing all their ingenuity to survive. There are a few twists and turns, and Taylor makes clever use of split-screen, while the arrival of a legendary tough guy actor truly ups the ante in the final few scenes.
All of which makes for an entertaining finale to a film that isn’t for the faint-hearted or those of a nervous disposition. But ideal for audiences that like their genre offerings as messed up and un-PC as possible.
Is Mom and Dad Good?
Mom and Dad isn’t fine art. But what the film lacks in depth, it more than makes up for in mischief and fun. The taboo-busting premise is never explained, but it doesn’t really need to be. Modern audiences are smart enough to know how these things work, and that what’s happening is very much a means to an end.
And it’s great to see Nicolas Cage unleashing his inner Nic Cage to achieve that end. At times it’s exhausting to watch. At others, it’s both hilarious and hypnotic. But he’s never less-than-committed, the actor elevating the material in genuinely bizarre fashion. And making Mom and Dad a must-watch for fans his very his unique, peculiar and fearless approach to big-screen acting.
Mom and Dad screened at Fantastic Fest and doesn’t yet have a release date.