Director: Brian Taylor
Screenwriter: Brian Taylor
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert T. Cunningham
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC,
Opens: January 19, 2018
Home is not only where the heart is, but the refuge from the wilds and anonymity of the outside world, a place where everybody knows your name and loves you. Except when they do not. “Mom & Dad,” a horror pic that will be compared unfavorably even to the other movies opening during the dreaded movie month of January, is more horrendous than horror. The film, which spends all too much time exhibiting parents running amuck with the usual rapid editing that makes the theater audience wonder what’s really happening, is twice as long as it should be despite its brief eighty-three minutes’ running time. It should cut about eighty-three minutes from the final release.
Brian Taylor, who wrote and directs, is known for “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” in which a fellow in Eastern Europe tries to stop the devil, who is trying to take human form. The macabre, then, is in Taylor’s DNA, but this time around his movie fails on every level. It’s lacking narrative continuity, with editing that makes a joke out of the violence, with Nicolas Cage’s ranting and raving at a volume that could wake the dead (and indeed it seems to have done so with one of the young men he attacks); and with sudden flashbacks that pop out at inconvenient moments to give the audience a feel for what life was like for these characters in better times.
The Ryan family, which consists of Brent (Nicolas age), his wife Kendall (Selma Blair), their daughter Carly (Anne Winters), and Carly’s kid brother Joshua (Zachary Arthur), live in a sterile suburb with what Pete Seeger would call ticky-tacky housing. Something happens to people throughout the town, though one could hardly call the violent breakout the fault of suburbia since a human tsunami breaks out throughout the land. Parents, people who almost surely have resentments against their kids due to jealousy, and smarting at the mischief that the young ones have caused them, have become intent on killing their spawn. There is a hint that a TV broadcast with snow on the screen has tripped the mayhem, but whether or not TV is responsible, all the parents of youngsters in high school have gathered at a gate that is locking them out, ready to comic massive homicide.
What is meant to be the source of climactic action finds the Carly and her brother in the basement hiding from their parents, as Kendall and Brent manage to see through their rage enough to decide how to get at the kids with various tools that suburban houses have almost as additional rooms in their homes. Again the rapid-fire editing makes a jumble of the battle in a movie that lacks scares, a screenplay, and anything beyond the usual generic horror music. A travesty that somehow managed to find a place at the Toronto International Festival.
Rated R. 83 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – F
Acting – C
Technical – C
Overall – D