Mom and Dad, 2018.
Written and directed by Brian Taylor.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Olivia Crocicchia, Robert T. Cunningham, and Lance Henriksen.
A strange hysteria spreads over parents in a suburban community, causing them to stalk and kill their children in a psychotic rage.
It’s obvious to just about anyone that there’s only one reason a film as unashamedly batty as Mom and Dad is getting a multiplex cinema release. This is a movie that has been sold entirely on the promise of Nicolas Cage going completely unchained, with the trailer packed with scenes of Cage hitting stuff with sledgehammers, snarling directly into the camera lens and yelling – a lot. As far as the marketing is concerned, everything else is window dressing.
As window dressing goes, this is pretty strange material. Writer-director Brian Taylor, who made the enjoyable Crank with filmmaking partner Mark Neveldine, has constructed a bad taste horror-comedy built around the deeply dark premise of a mysterious brand of hysteria that pushes parents into a psychotic rage directed towards their own children. Suburban parents Brent (Cage) and Kendall (American Crime Story‘s Selma Blair) succumb to this hysteria and it falls to their kids – teenage Carly (Anne Winters) and youngster Josh (Zackary Arthur) – to go all Home Alone and fight off their own family.
There’s certainly potential for pitch-black comedy in the premise of Mom and Dad, as well as suburban social commentary. However, Taylor’s movie is simply a 90-minute onslaught of mindless violence, shaky cam and camera angles so Dutch that you can smell the tulips and cannabis cafés. As with George Clooney’s Suburbicon from last year, this is a film ripe to unpick the cartoonish perfection of suburbia that has simply resorted to violence and mayhem rather than thematic depth.
But it would perhaps be foolish to expect that depth from a man who last worked with Cage when he directed the Ghost Rider sequel. Mom and Dad, though, doesn’t even deliver when it comes to pure spectacle. It’s a messy and unfocused disaster of a film that moves too quickly to ever settle on its big moments. Taylor also has an unusual habit of cutting away to a dull flashback in the middle of an exciting set piece. One scene sees a lengthy depiction of Cage building a pool table, immediately followed by him smashing it to bits while yelling the ‘Hokey Cokey’. Because, obviously.
If all you want from a movie is a series of Nicolas Cage freak-outs, then Mom and Dad will definitely be satisfying. This is Cage absolutely turned up to 11 in every way, whether he’s carrying out the aforementioned assassination of a pool table or randomly flicking his tongue out to lick the rim of a beer can. It’s the actor leaning in to the way he has been characterised over the years and delivering the definitive take on his idiosyncratic, decibel-busting tirades. Unfortunately, it’s a performance full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Cage is obviously the star here and it’s abundantly clear from the start of the movie that Taylor couldn’t care less about any of the other characters. Selma Blair is saddled with hideously clunky dialogue – she unironically refers to something as “hashtag inappropriate” – and Taylor comes across as having never met a teenager in his life when he tries to write for the young girls in the story. That’s before things return to the suburban home and the Chinese housekeeper, who is an alarmingly offensive caricature.
Mom and Dad is a messy, fumbling movie that never engages with its bad taste concept. Indeed, it’s more of a half-idea than a complete film and, by the time the credits roll halfway through the scene that should be the climax, it’s tough to believe anyone involved in this ever knew what they were doing.
In 1979, the poster for Alien told us that, in space, no one can hear you scream. But I bet they can hear Nicolas Cage.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.