Crank and Gamer co-director Brian Taylor goes solo for the first time with this gleefully nasty horror comedy that will not disappoint fans of his work with Mark Neveldine. Mom And Dad has the kind of premise that could be played relatively straight, or at least in a more chilling, low-key fashion, but Taylor instead channels his signature lunatic energy and pitch-black humour to deliver a midnight movie that will have you cackling and gasping in equal measure.
The set-up is classic 70s outbreak horror (something Taylor plays up with a lovely retro title sequence), as some kind of signal transmitted through television static makes parents want to murder their children. Can teenage Carly (Anne Winters) protect herself and her little brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) from their killer mom (Selma Blair) and dad (Nicolas Cage)?
It doesn’t take long for Taylor to start the carnage, but there’s a lot more character work here than you might expect as Kendall and Brent are both crashing and burning through their midlife crises, full of disappointment in her case and regret in his. Stir in Carly’s rebelliousness and all the toys Josh leaves lying around, and you’ve got a powder keg waiting to go off even before homicidal impulses are triggered.
The fact that Cage tears the screen to shreds almost goes without saying (although he seems to be having more fun than usual here, starting at 11 and only going higher), but he’s easily matched by Blair, who nails Kendall’s desperation in the first half and becomes a truly frightening figure in the second. She’s also at the centre of one of the film’s most outrageous sequences, of which there are several. Mom And Dad never quite crosses a line but it definitely enjoys getting close to it.
That combination of mischief and control makes the film unpredictable and too clever for disposable schlock. It’s shocking, it’s well-performed and it is very, very funny (a late appearance from Lance Henriksen is particularly wonderful). It doesn’t all work, but Taylor’s clever enough to keep things to a tight 86 minutes to ensure you walk out with a grin on your face.