When it comes to arguing with mom and dad, what’s worse than the dreaded ‘I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed’? Literal infanticide, of course, and the ultimate cinematic taboo. Who can kill a child? Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair have a good go at it in this black comedy action horror, from one half of the duo who brought us Crank. The results are… well, they’re what happens when you let Nicolas Cage and Brian Taylor truly loose. Suffer the poor children.
When the mommies and daddies of America (and possibly the world) lose their collective minds and are overcome by the urge to violently murder their own children, the Ryan family are far from immune. Dad Brent (the Cage, in fine fettle) is already a borderline nutcase, giving off some serious Jack Nicholson-in-The Shining vibes, and resentful mom Kendall (Blair) is hardly on an even keel herself. Even before the mystery virus strikes, one wouldn’t fancy the kids’ chances. Once the world turns topsy-turvy, they face a fight for their lives; never mind bed with no supper, they’re more likely to find themselves chopped up beneath it while Nicolas Cage does the hokey-cokey over their still-warm corpses.
The Nicolas Cage hokey-cokey is the main draw, but thankfully there’s more to Mom and Dad than just a hyperactive Nic Cage performance. The film’s hook is a powerful one, and Taylor directs with an assured hand, making the most of his premise but not going so unpleasant that it becomes unwatchable. That said, it’s almost unbearably tense at times, peaking early during what might be the most horrifying childbirth sequence since Mother! but maintaining a sense of unpredictability and genuine danger to the end.
Part throwback to ‘70s and ‘80s European horror cinema, it’s filmed in unsettlingly jangly style, featuring gorgeous opening credits, inventive camerawork and a slickness that betrays the director’s action movie past. Think Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake crossed with the Rubberbandits’ Your Dad’s Best Friend music video. It’s like 28 Days Later meets Home Alone.
And what of Mom and Dad? An unrestrained Cage is the star of the show, but it’s Selma Blair who really stands out. A saddening portrait of a life left in limbo for ungrateful kids and a paunchy man-child husband, her Kendall is surprisingly rounded, Blair’s performance layered and sympathetic. Together, she and Cage become a terrifyingly plausible pair of antagonists. What’s worse: recognising that resentment and repressed rage one feels (and hopefully denies) as an unappreciated, past-one’s-prime parent – or seeing it reflected in your own parents’ eyes? There’s something for everyone, even if it’s just the joy of watching Nicolas Cage beat up a pool table with a sledgehammer. Lance Henriksen too, emerging at the last minute to show the young whippersnappers how it’s really done.
While the subject matter may put some off, and that ending is a stunning last-minute misstep, Mom and Dad is remarkably well-crafted; a modern Nicolas Cage movie and sort-of-kind-of-zombie film that’s far better than it has any right to be. It’s funny, it’s tense, it’s nasty and it delivers the best Nicolas Cage performance in years. The kids may not be alright, but this film certainly is. And then some.REVIEW: MOM AND DAD / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BRIAN TAYLOR / SCREENPLAY: BRIAN TAYLOR / STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, SELMA BLAIR, LANCE HENRIKSEN, ANNE WINTERS, ZACKARY ARTHUR, ROBERT T. CUNNINGHAM / RELEASE DATE: JULY 16TH