This horror flick works despite a silly premise

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Mom and Dad

Feb. 23
3 out of 5

I was heading down to the lobby at the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto last fall when behind me a familiar voice I couldn’t quite place told his companion matter-of-factly: “Hollywood wouldn’t hire me, which is why I make movies for international markets.”

I was tempted to turn around, but didn’t. Really, there was no need as ahead of me was Selma Blair. Turns out, I’d unwittingly inserted myself into the Mom and Dad promotional tour, and the man complaining about the business behind me was Nicolas Cage.

The Oscar winner (whose films rarely get a theatrical release anymore) is in fine form here. Cage and Blair are Brent and Kendall Ryan, a couple of suburbanites increasingly tired with their lot in life. Doesn’t help that their teenage daughter lies through her teeth, and their younger son is a bit of a brat.

Tensions come to a head one afternoon, when for unknown reasons parents around the world go on homicidal sprees against their spawn. At the Ryan household, this translates into a siege, kids vs. adults in a fight to the death.

The thing about Cage is that he calibrates the crazy just right. He starts as a man experiencing a midlife crisis, and amps up the madness gradually. By the time he goes ballistic, it’s within character. As the yoga-mom from hell, Blair matches Cage beat for beat, and their rapport is one of the film’s highlights.

Written and directed by Brian Taylor (one half of the Crank team), Mom and Dad reminded me of those ’70s suburban horror romps (it’s lean and mean-spirited) and makes some good points regarding the resentment parents harbour toward their offspring.

For all the smart things Mom and Dad does (a couple of crowd scenes are genuinely unsettling), it could’ve used a better ending. But it gets more mileage from the silly premise than you might expect.