So in the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a horror fan. It’s just not a genre that generally interests me. But horror thrillers can work (like Alien) or similar genre mixes, and I do enjoy the occasional horror comedy (like Tucker and Dale Versus Evil or Cabin in the Woods). So I was intrigued by the concept of a “dark comic horror movie.”
Mom and Dad comes from writer/director Brian Taylor, known for the first two Crank movies and the recent quite good television series Happy!. The movie follows the Ryan family as they get submerged into a weird horror premise with a shaky thematic meaning. Nicolas Cage plays Brent Ryan, the father of the family, and his struggle is simplistic: He’s disappointed in growing older and his worth as a man.
He fantasizes about driving his fancy older car as a young man with beautiful women, and he seems to have a roiling fury under his eyes. His wife is the mother, Kendall (Selma Blair), another person obsessed with the pain of growing older. She pushes herself in exercise classes to stay fit to seem younger, and she also struggles in her toxic relationship with her daughter Carly (Anne Winters), the classic clichéd rebellious teenager who hates her mother.
Carly is dating a black classmate, but this is not really a theme. Instead, the theme is simple: The fear of obsolescence as a parent. After all, in a way, you are raising people to replace you. Of course, that’s a stupid, reductive reading of children, because another way is that raising children is a way to extend your genetic marker on the future subconsciously. Oh, and there’s a younger brother, Josh (Zackary Arthur), just a little kid with no personality of his own.
The horror premise happens when suddenly parents begin killing their children. There are a lot of scenes showing how their little town is beginning to suffer due to the mysterious, never explained horror premise. It is explained as something in the animal kingdom called “savaging,” which is basically when a mother pig attacks the newborn piglets. So why not simply apply the same concept, which isn’t entirely understood anyway, to humans?
For a movie that’s supposedly a horror comedy, it’s quite light on humor or jokes. Or characters with any personality. Carly and her boyfriend are stock characters and aren’t that interesting. When the Ryan parents finally snap and go after their children, there are a few snippets of character development, but it’s mostly just a lot of waiting, then attacks, etc.
Oddly, the writing is the real problem here — you can’t simply rely on Nicolas Cage being crazy to make your movie funny. The horror is at times brutal but didn’t seem too much to me, although it’s still very violent. Going into this, I was hoping to see a unique, interesting take on horror in a dark comic manner, but instead I just got something that’s ultimately just forgettable.
Mom and Dad has a run time of 2 hours 3 minutes and is rated R for disturbing horror violance, language throughout, some sexual content / nudity and teen drug use.