“Mom and Dad” is an entirely absurdist take on the “town hysteria” subgenre of horror, and that’s a good, good thing.
The film, written and directed by Brian Taylor, stars Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as Brent and Kendall Ryan, the titular parents and overstressed suburbanites. The film opens with a typical suburban breakfast, hitting on all the tropes such as the “rebellious teenager” and the “Asian-American housekeeper.” When their daughter Carly goes to school, various technology begins emitting ominous static as adults seem to be losing their minds, hunting their children endlessly. The film follows the action of Carly and her younger brother Joshua as they navigate and attempt to escape their own parents’ murderous rampage.
It should be noted first that the movie is entirely bizarre. Every shot is some sort of twist on both family comedy and horror in some sort of appropriate Frankensteinian (or Betty Crockerian?) abomination. The preview on Hulu completely gives away the schtick of the film which makes the film all that much more unsettling. Because the film was initially an independent project, the artistic vision is a little more nuanced than many similar films with similar blockbuster actors.
Nicolas Cage is a goldmine normally and, in this case, he truly sells this film. If you’re familiar with Cage’s previous work, he is known as a particularly interesting actor, “interesting” here meaning anywhere from horrible to intriguing. He’s a little of both in this film but this cannot and should not be chalked up to “bad acting.” The popular perception of Cage as an actor anything less than spectacular is just a myth and this film alone proves it. Cage’s constant switch between strained father and murderous psychopath likens back to his work in the film “Face-Off” with John Travolta or “The Wicker Man.” In various flashbacks, Cage’s acting prowess is stretched even further where his character relates to several characters. These interactions range from irate father figure to aging husband.
The film is very graphic in the way it presents the death of children by their parents affected by some sort of mass hysteria. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should definitely be noted for anyone taking in the film for the first time. The positive thing to be said about the film’s almost loose attitude towards death is that the choreography associated with these vicious attacks is well put together and uses practical effects at nearly every turn. There is only one instance of computer-generated imaging and because of its place in the film, it looks much less realistic. A good horror film is made by its effects and when a production team decides to go the extra mile for practically-run effects, it is immediately noticeable.
Ultimately, “Mom and Dad” is great quick horror film with a few comedy moments here and there. The film creates this weird atmosphere that no other recent film has done successfully. “Mom and Dad” receives an A-rating.