Some movies spend a lot of time trying to figure out what they want to be. Other movies try to impress a message upon their audience. Others still just tell a story and find their message and identity along the way. Writer/director Brian Taylor’s 2018 satirical thriller Mom and Dad falls firmly into the latter category.
Set over the course of 24 hours, Mom and Dad follows a family as an inexplicable plague of violence affects the nation, turning parents against their children. The result is a maniacal bloodbath that despite its somber undercurrent about life, death and all the disappointments in-between is an extremely well executed hour and a half of a whole lotta guilty pleasure.
Taylor’s directing chops are masterfully deployed here, showing what the Gamer/Ghost Rider helmer can do with the right material. Fans of the Statham headlined Crank films will undoubtedly see hints of Taylor’s amphetamine-fueled pacing here, but the moments that Taylor lets the camera slow down are some of the films finest. There is a fly-on-the-wallet approach to the more reigned shots that are almost reminiscent of 80s Spielberg. This ability to let the camera catch the action in this way is best exemplified in Mom and Dad’s greatest asset, Nicholas Cage.
This is Cage at his most unhinged and it is Cage at his most effective. The actor is most effectively utilized in all aspects of the character’s most insane mania as the “plague” takes hold as well as the smaller moments, reminiscing of his heydays before parentdom. In fact, although this horror-actioner assembles a great younger cast, it is the middle aged duo of Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair that truly shine here; two parents dealing with the reality that their prime has passed and struggling against the things that have come to redefine them.
It is Mom and Dad’s message, incidental as it might be, that strengthens the story and, for those of us past forty, adds a layer of relevance that allows us to access our most darkest and scariest thoughts of obsolescence at the core of the script; a script that lucky for genre lovers, doesn’t pull many punches.
There is nastiness at the core of Mom and Dad that places it firmly in the horror camp. It doesn’t shy away from the violence and knows when to play it for laughs as well as when to ratchet up the intensity to almost cringe inducing levels. A particularly insane sequence in a hospital delivery room is one that won’t exit the audience’s memory anytime soon.
Mom and Dad’s few faults to some viewers might also be counted among its strengths. Those looking for answers behind the murderous plague will come away empty-handed. Likewise those looking for a definitive resolution will also be disappointed. In a world of films that try too hard to wrap up its themes in their entirety by the credits, I had no problem with either of what I’m sure will be viewed as shortcomings.
I personally dug the hell outta Mom and Dad and if you might just be looking for a film that could fit its way into the “social horror” category without beating you over the head with its more obvious themes, you will too.