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Mom and Dad review - Nicolas Cage is on a rampage in this hidden horror treat

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There’s two films, really, within Brian Taylor’s solo directorial debut.

One is a low-budget horror thriller featuring Selma Blair as a woman unfulfilled in her role as mother to two kids, the older of which steals from her and barely gives her the time of day. The other is a coked-up heavy metal reimagining of The Shining except in place of Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson, we have Nicolas Cage being the most Nicolas Cage he's been in years. Together they create Mom and Dad, a batshit joyride that combines Taylor’s affinity for Grindhouse with his - and the world’s - affinity for Cage on a mindless rampage.

Taking place over the course of a day, we follow teenager Carly (Anne Winters) who has to protect her little brother from Mom (Blair) and Dad (Cage) after parents everywhere are suddenly and inexplicably overcome with the urge to murder their offspring. The concept alone is enough to have some fun with, and it does so with berserk glee.

Triggered by an unknown static, a mother is seen putting on a Dusty Springfield track for her infant to enjoy before leaving it in the car to be demolished by an oncoming train. Another later attempts to kill her newborn in the delivery room to the tittering pop sound of Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’.

Both music and editing indeed take on a life of their own in giving the film its conflicting, maniacal character. The same can also be said for Cage. The Ghost Rider star may be in on the joke by now but that never detracts from the wildly amusing madness of his performance.

He curses his children and yells frothing obscenities while chasing them with a Sawzall. It would be more than enough to overshadow the other half of his parent-killer team, but Blair’s floundered, sympathetic eyes ground the drama enough to offset the flailing unpredictability in Cage’s.

This offbeat brand of dark humour is what makes Mom and Dad such a hidden treat. “You’re talking about pigs? There are children dying and you’re talking about pigs?” a news anchor incredulously asks Dr. Oz (really), who ascribes the phenomenon to "savaging", which refers to aggressive behaviour from mother to child in the animal kingdom.

In terms of its horror the film is fully aware of the debt it owes to older trailblazers of the genre, particularly the aforementioned ‘70s Grindhouse aesthetic as well as zombie flicks such as the Night of the Living Dead series and 28 Days Later.

Given all the insanity, it seems almost futile, then, to bring up the theme of parenthood and how it gets in the way of all the goals and careers we dream for ourselves. But the film is insistent on bringing it up through several awkwardly positioned flashback sequences to try and add more depth to the Ryan family - when they’re not trying to kill each other, that is.

The crowning glory comes in the centrepiece flashback, where Cage destroys a pool table while ferociously singing the ‘Hokey Pokey’ that then turns into a five-minute anguished monologue from both parents about how they are no longer Kendall and Brent, but ‘Mom and Dad’. The pacing issues are glaring, and whether its attempts to offer serious emotion pay off or not is uncertain. Its best moments come from when Cage is simply allowed to run amok.

Mom and Dad is out now, distributed by Momentum Pictures.




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