As someone who revels in the unabashed ridiculousness and wrongness of the Crank films, Mom and Dad was just the kind of anarchic cinema I was hoping to experience from writer/director Brian Taylor (who helmed the aforementioned Crank films alongside Mark Neveldine). A mix of survival/pandemic horror with a steady flow of pitch-black comedy coursing through its wonderfully nasty veins, Mom and Dad is just the right amount of wrong for this writer, and I enjoyed that Taylor—as expected—doesn’t pull any punches with his latest over-the-top endeavor.
In Mom and Dad, we meet struggling parents Brent (Nicolas Cage) and Kendall (Selma Blair), who are having difficulties in their marriage, as the stresses of creating two children (Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur) and all the responsibilities that come along with parenthood have seemed to rob the couple’s very existences of any kind of joy. Amidst their everyday familial conflicts that tug on the ties that bind them, another threat looms over the Ryan family: a viral outbreak that causes parents to have the urge to kill their offspring (and only their offspring), leaving Brent and Kendall’s kids on the run, desperate to survive their mom and dad’s murderous wrath, in Taylor’s bitter family feud to the death.
When you’re making a film centered on the concept of violently killing kids—and boy, do I mean violently in terms of what you see here—there is such a delicate line that you have to walk as a storyteller, because to many, the very notion itself is offensive (even if I don’t personally see things the same way, I still get why some folks might feel otherwise). But Taylor thankfully infuses Mom and Dad with enough of his own twisted brand of humor to balance out the film’s sometimes cruel and relentless nature in which no one is safe, even Cage and Blair, who end up with their own set of parental problems during the final act of Mom and Dad.
And while Taylor’s definitely giving his horror hybrid a bit of a satirical spin, that doesn’t mean certain deaths are any less horrifying or emotionally effective in Mom and Dad. There’s a scene in a hospital delivery room that downright chilled me to my bones (as you can probably guesstimate, based on the concept and the locale, it’s all sorts of effed up), and watching a horde of parents stampede towards their unsuspecting children, who are just mere moments from literally being ripped apart, was truly unsettling even to someone who isn’t a parent.
Taylor’s trademark hyper-frenetic directorial energy is fully on display throughout Mom and Dad, as his cuts and camera movements pick up speed whenever the story’s action intensifies. As far as performances go, I really enjoyed both Blair and Cage, who both seem to enjoy digging into the relatable plights of their parental characters. For a good portion of the film, Blair remains unaffected by the mayhem around her, but once her switch gets flipped, we get to see an entirely different side of the usually level-headed Kendall, and it’s a highly enjoyable turn. Cage, of course, leans into the craziness of Mom and Dad’s concept, but I appreciated the more character-driven aspects of his performance, especially a scene involving Brent coming to terms with the life he’s been forced to give up in order to be the man he needs to be for his family. Good stuff all around.
I’m keenly aware that Mom and Dad isn’t going to be for everyone, but as someone who relishes cinematic chaos and filmmakers who aren’t afraid to embrace the darker aspects of humanity, I had an absolute blast with Taylor’s edgy efforts here. It would make for a killer double feature with Joe Lynch’s Mayhem (or even make it a triple feature and throw in 2007's The Signal for good measure), and for my fellow Crank fans out there, this is as good a time as any to remind you that Taylor’s insanely brilliant series Happy! is currently running on Syfy, and is so worth your time as well.
Movie Score: 4/5