MOM & DAD
Not to be confused with the disturbing British imprisonment thriller Mum & Dad (2008), Mom & Dad is a mass insanity film. This is a mini-genre that has grown up ever since George Romeros The Crazies (1973). The basic idea has played through a number of other films such as Impulse (1984), Warning Sign (1985), The Signal (2007), Pontypool (2008), Dead Air (2009), Nine Miles Down (2009), YellowBrickRoad (2010), Patient Zero (2012), Urge (2016) and Mayhem (2017). The spin Mom & Dad puts on this is to have parents attempting to kill their own children. (No explanation is ever offered for this outbreak of mass insanity).
I have hated all of Brian Taylors other films and so I sat down to watch Mom & Dad with a lack of enthusiasm. For a good part of the way in, Taylor does not disappoint in this regard. It is like he has the same testosteronally-hyped teenager inside waiting to get out that Michael Bay does. The early scenes come with frenetically blurred scenes of Nicolas Cage going mad at the wheel of a Trans Am with a topless woman sitting on his lap or shots snaking across the floor of a gym to watch Selma Blairs booty shaking at the camera while music pumps on the soundtrack.
However, there comes that sudden moment where Brian Taylor discovers himself, leaves all of the mad coke fiend twitchiness that fuelled his films with Neveldine/Taylor behind and suddenly starts to make an enjoyable watchable film. One of these scenes is the one at the school with a horde of parents menacingly waiting outside the school gates, tearing apart one child who scales the fence, then bursting onto the sports field en masse and attacking their children, including visions of one father suffocating his daughter with a plastic bin liner and another parent impaling their child with a flag marker. The film is littered with these moments throughout Anne Winters walking upstairs to find her friend Olivia Crocicchia has just been strangled to death by her mother; the delivery room scene where Selma Blairs sister wants to kill the baby immediately after giving birth; the mother in the street who shoves her child in a stroller out into the path of a car.
Mom & Dad soon becomes a rather watchable work. One of the more watchable aspects of the film is Nicolas Cage. His history with genre material has become rather uneven, especially some of the tatty work he has been taking on of late just for a paycheque Left Behind (2014), Pay the Ghost (2015) and The Humanity Bureau (2017). Here he gives one of his demented performances where he lets all stops go he even manages to turn flashback scenes recounting stories to young Zackary Arthur into something bugged out. The highlight of this is a scene in the middle of the film in which he demolishes a pool table with a sledgehammer while ranting about his man cave, his failing hormones and getting middle-aged, which segues into a section of dialogue between he and Selma Blair that surprises you in how much it feels like Brian Taylor has written it as something personal.
The films most sustained scenes come where the children are at siege in the cellar and parents Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair are trying to cut down the door with saws or hooking up the gas to suffocate them. Brian Taylor also has a way of using flashbacks to his characters pasts in ways that blackly contrast the onslaught of violence with the calmness of family life. Or where he makes contrast the kids trying to escape with Cage and Blair sitting upstairs and calmly conspiring as though they were reminiscing over their past together. The film becomes particularly blackly funny during the scenes when grandparents Lance Henriksen and Marilyn Dodds Frank turn up and immediately begin trying to kill Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair, which comes with some hilarious spins as one of them reacts in horror to seeing someone attacking a child and then turns to see their own child and immediately attempt to start killing them.