For most children, one of the most stable part of their lives comes in the form of their parents or guardians. They’re the constants, the protectors, the nurturers—what have you. One of the scariest things for a child who has known that is losing it in one form or another. Mom and Dad wants to explore what happens when that “loss” comes from the parents acting polar opposite of what’s expected. Of course, by that I mean the parents become killers of their children.
Okay, so maybe “explore” is the wrong word. Mom and Dad isn’t looking to do much more than take a “my kids make me crazy” metaphor and let it play out with as little sanity as possible. Parents might find it relatable and cathartic. A mysterious broadcast turns every parent within earshot homicidal—but only toward their own offspring. We primarily follow one family—two parents (Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair) and their two kids (Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur)—after this broadcast starts infecting the minds of all the parents around town.
What results is a strong black comedy and a mild horror film. It doesn’t go for many scares, to be fair; it’s got a mild unnerving feeling that permeates most of the proceedings, and it’s certainly scary to the characters in the film, but the audience will spend most of the film laughing and feeling bad for laughing. Should we laugh when a mother tries to suffocate her newborn baby? No, probably not, but we nervously do simply because the movie had the audacity to go there—something you’ll either appreciate or by which you’ll be repulsed.
Of course, Mom and Dad‘s writer-director isn’t someone who’s afraid to go there. The film comes courtesy of Brian Taylor, one half of the duo who made the Crank movies—which got by on adrenaline and sheer insanity. He’s making his solo directorial debut here, but the film feels very much at home with the Crank franchise. He’s got a distinct visual style he goes for, and the humor is right in line with his previous movies.
Mom and Dad is a lot of fun if you aren’t completely put off because of its premise.
Mom and Dad suffers from two main issues, only one of which wouldn’t significantly alter the tone the film’s going for. That would be to add more … thought, I guess, to it. It’s not heavy on dialogue or characters or ideas—it just wants to set up its premise and let it play out in a breezy and darkly funny way. Would it be a better movie if it had a better plot, stronger characters, or more fleshed-out ideas? Yeah, probably, but that’s not what it’s going for, and it’s a little hard to dislike it for not doing that.
The second is where it realistically could have improved, and that’s in the creativity of its attempted murders. You’ve got parents who get to act upon their deepest, darkest impulses—”I could just kill him/her” brought to life—but most of the time it just involves the parent running at the child until the child gets behind a door of some sort. There’s a neat “flushing out” method the parents use once but, outside of that, it would have been nice if there were some more interesting techniques for them to try.
And it isn’t like the parents are morphed zombie-like creatures, either. They’re capable of critical thought, compassion, and resourcefulness. They’re effectively the same people, just with one small detail changed: murdering their spawn is their number one priority. That’s one of the most interesting aspects of Mom and Dad, really—it would have been much easier to turn off their brains. But since we see them think, more inventiveness would have been swell to see.
Still, Mom and Dad is a lot of fun if you aren’t completely put off because of its premise—which, admittedly, some people will be unable to accept. It’s a brief burst of excitement that’s filled with some dark laughs and creepiness. Nicolas Cage gets to do some fun over-the-top acting, Selma Blair’s flip of the switch is brilliant, and the kids aren’t bad, either. It’d be a great movie if it were more creative with its attempted murders, and it’d be a different (but better) movie if it were more thoughtful with its premise, plot, and characters, but I enjoyed Mom and Dad for what it is.
Conclusion: Mom and Dad is a fun black comedy with a killer premise.
Recommendation: If you can accept what it’s going for—both in terms of tone/style and premise—then Mom and Dad is worth your time.