Fright Fest 2018 Review #1 – Mom and Dad (2017)

mom and dad
The Parents Snap

Subgenre:  Horror-comedy / Nicolas Cage

Summary:  A virus causing parents to be homicidal toward their offspring throws a small town into chaos.

Review:  The Ryans are a suburban family riding the line between functional and dysfunctional.  Father Brent (Nicolas Cage) pines for the days of his wild youth, while mother Kendall (Selma Blair) struggles to connect with her moody teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters).  Youngest son Josh (Zackary Arthur), innocent to the tumult brewing around him, is the family’s sole well-adjusted member.  When a mysterious broadcast turns the nation’s parents into filicidal maniacs, Carly must protect Josh from their newly-crazed progenitors.

Mom and Dad was directed by Brian Taylor, one half of the team behind the relentless Crank series, and as one might expect, the entire movie is coated in a hyper-stylized sheen.  From the offbeat, insinuating score, bouncing between throwback synth melodies and numbing muzak, to the quick, rhythmic editing, it’s clear from the start that naturalism isn’t on this movie’s agenda.  This mannered aesthetic could grow tiring in the wrong hands, but Mom and Dad backs it up with a lean, punchy script and strong performances.

Though the two children are ostensibly our protagonists, Cage and Blair are this movie’s true lead actors, and neither one disappoints.  The story wisely saves their transformation into full-fledged psychos for the final act, which lets them both turn in enjoyable – if not particularly nuanced – performances in the first half as parents who are both insufficient and understandably aggrieved.  Cage delivers the freak-outs his fans crave, and it’s just as fun to watch the normally subdued Blair go off the rails.

Even at a light eighty-three minutes, Mom and Dad drags in its third act, which runs out of ideas on what to do with an elongated parents-vs-kids standoff.  Thankfully, it pulls itself together for a gory, chaotic free-for-all of a finale that’s an undeniable crowd-pleaser, complete with a fittingly insane (though somewhat predictable) twist.

The Verdict:  No one will accuse its parental satire of being subtle, but Mom and Dad delivers all the deranged laughs one could want from a horror-comedy.  I give it seven-and-a-half gonzo guardians out of ten.

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