Mom and Dad, 2018.
Written and Directed by Brian Taylor.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert T. Cunningham, Marilyn Dodds Frank, Olivia Crocicchia, Rachel Melvin, and Lance Henriksen.
A teenage girl and her little brother must survive a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own kids.
Folks, we have another one for the always hilarious Nicolas Cage montages of insanity; a clip of the veteran actor (known for unprecedented levels of craziness in his older years) destroying a pool table while intensely wide-eyed yelling out The Hokey Pokey. The kicker is that although it is a flashback integrated into the middle of Mom and Dad (written and directed by Brian Taylor who is most the for the Crank franchise, utilizing that same punk rock and frenetic style here as well), this is a father BEFORE the mind-altering virus encouraging parents to brutally murder their children kicks in.
To say that everyone’s favorite loose cannon actor gets an abundance of’maniacal shenanigans to work with would be a massive understatement, but it’s also finally a role that takes advantage of this far less serious side of the performer (just like an inexplicable switch is turned on inside the head of parents persuading them to take out all their anger violently on the little brats turning their world upside down throughout the hellish ride that is parenting. Nicolas Cage can also flip a similar switch and deliver turns that go beyond madcap rage) as a means to highlight a metaphor rooted in sweet black comedy. Let it be known that Selma Blair is able to keep up with the king of insanity as a mother under the same spell. Together, they play up the sinister ordeal able to on-the-fly change between feral-like creatures and conniving humans pretending to be cured in hopes of their children lowering their guard.
The two children (a teenage daughter and prepubescent child) played by Anne Winters (gaining popularity thanks to the hit Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why) and Zackary Arthur respectively are also serviceable in the Home Alone reminiscent roles of being forced into booby-trapping their own abode while seeking out isolated areas for hiding. They are unlikable little shits before the virus triggers but crucially are able to regain our sympathy during the cat and mouse game of death. Mom and Dad might take nearly half of its brisk 83-minute running time to fully take off, but once it does the results are essentially a home invasion film built on loving your children but concurrently wanting to kill them. The script also has a terrific trick up its sleeve during the last 15 minutes that expands the competitors of the battle royale. It’s a bit lame that there is barely an attempt to explain why parents have been brainwashed into murdering their children, but at the very least it saves audiences from more preamble. Still, the film could have taken us from the early morning of school to its centerpiece standoff much quicker and effectively.
The direction from Brian Taylor, as mentioned, follows his well-executed style seen in the absurd Crank action flicks (there are constantly loud sound cues of static rock, inaudible screaming, close-up facial expressions of characters looking like they are drugged out of their minds, a punk rock soundtrack complete with Nicolas Cage wearing a Misfits band T-shirt, and sped-up carnage), also seeing him branching out by implementing flashbacks in an interesting way calling back to early childhood memories that devilishly have quite a bit to do with whatever the current life or death situation may be. The one surprise with his direction that will likely disappoint some of the more bloodthirsty viewers out there is that the movie isn’t nearly as graphic as expected. There’s even an earlier moment set in a hospital disturbingly but intelligently seemingly headed for a dark place that climaxes with a whimper, almost as if the filmmakers decided they didn’t want to go that far in the middle of shooting the scene itself. It’s not all bad though, as wide shots of armageddon on a school football field almost make up for it.
The obvious present themes also aren’t really explored in any meaningful way that is sure to leave an everlasting impression, but the fact that Mom and Dad has more on its mind at all besides 1970s genre visual throwbacks and senseless violence is a thankful outcome. This isn’t high art nor is it meant to be, but when the film gradually starts giving Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair more scenes, things escalate into all-out generational warfare presented with on-point tones of horror and dark comedy. Of all the low-budget pictures Nicolas Cage has decided to take part in over the last decade or so, this is definitely one of the best and one worth watching the entire film rather than just the highlights. Look, Nicolas Cage obviously isn’t going to win Best Actor here, but he should be placed into consideration for Psychotic Murderous Dad of the Year.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com