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Categories: Movie Reviews

Thanks to the boundless energy of Nicolas Cage and some well explored themes, Mom and Dad adds something to a moment when kids in America feel under threat of violence.

Mom and Dad marks the solo debut of Brian Taylor, of famed off-the-wall filmmaking duo Neveldine/Taylor, as both writer and director and, when compared to both his first collaboration with the human dynamo that is Nicolas Cage (the duo’s last project together, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) and his counterpart’s solo debut (the incredibly humdrum The Vatican Tapes), it seems that Taylor may have a good career ahead of him on smaller-budgeted features.

Mom and Dad is rather surprisingly one of the most interesting zombie films to come out in recent years precisely because it is not actually a zombie film.

Zombies are of great appeal to low-budget filmmakers because zombies present a tremendous low-cost/low-energy solution to the problem of conflict within a story. It’s a lot cheaper, and easier, to create an omnipresent threat that’s incapable of higher thought than it is to design an original or intelligent one, especially when all you need to do to create it is to apply rudimentary makeup to extras and have them shuffle around. Mom and Dad shifts the threat dynamic though with some marginally clever details.

The idea of parent/child horror has been around as long as anything else and there have been a number of notable examples of films which have played off of the taboo subject of violence towards children within the past decade alone. Unlike those films, however, Mom and Dad is not a free-for-all (some kind of virus that causes the host to attack at random against a specific demographic) instead the mystery affliction of the film only causes a parent to attack their specific offspring, other than that they’re fairly normal, and this is probably Mom and Dad’s best quality. Taylor certainly proves throughout the film that he’s better at writing and directing certain things than others (his idea of how teenage girls interact is fairly unconvincing) but he finds a way to make the most lazy of premises seem almost intricate.

When the threats in each scene aren’t just clamouring to scratch and bite anything that moves, and have one particular target, it really makes the breakdown of each action sequence make far more sense than it would in any other apocalyptic scenario. I know this sounds like patting him on the back for making his own job simpler but that’s kind of what good writing and directing is; knowing your limitations and planning things so that they at least make some semblance of sense according to your film’s own internal logic. On top of that it also makes the film’s core themes considerably more interesting. The sensation that younger generations are being offered up as sacrifice by older generations isn’t exactly uncommon but Mom and Dad doesn’t sit and muse on the impersonality of it all but rather asks whether it isn’t, actually, deeply personal. Mom and Dad isn’t a zombie film not just because of its smarter threats but also because it isn’t really about what happens when society breaks down but rather what happens when the, thinly separated, mirror emotions of love and hate reverse on eachother.

The most entertaining part of the film is still, inescapably, Nicolas Cage doing his whole Nicolas Cage thing (we’re talking the whole nine yards here and Nicolas Cage demolishing a pool table with a sledgehammer whilst maniacally singing The Hokey Cokey is just hugely amusing, there’s no way around it) but Taylor proves to be a fairly entertaining director also.

The film clocks in at a cool eighty minutes and the story moves very pacily, allowing the requisite amount of time for character development (often through some oddly rewarding flashback choices) but never slowing down enough to allow boredom to seep in or to allow the audience to really pull on any threads in the story (probably for the best). Taylor also nails a lot of stuff that’s essential for modern Hollywood storytelling but also entirely botched by huge studio productions with budgets in the hundreds of millions such as the use of social media and phones on-screen as well as recreating TV news broadcasts for the purposes of exposition. Not to mention that he pulls of an, incredibly blackly comedic, action sequence involving a newborn baby where the newborn actually looks convincing (I probably wouldn’t feel so compelled to bring this up if American Sniper hadn’t been nominated for an Oscar after the laughable rubber baby debacle).

Mom and Dad is far from perfect, and it’s riddled with plenty of moments that are just either pure schlock or pure bad, but it offers a refreshingly coherent, and frequently fun, outing for people who like to watch Nicolas Cage “lose his shit”. It’s a thoroughly unapologetic and unrepentant B-movie that offers one of the best spins on the home invasion narrative for quite some time and one day it may even be looked back on as somewhat of a classic.

Mom and Dad is out now in UK cinemas.

Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a copywriter, and lifelong cinephile, who received his bachelors in Film and Comparative Literature from the University of London. You can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

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Posted on Mar 9, 2018

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