It has become clear to movie goers that there exists in the world today two completely different Nicholas Cages – one who is the series actor, starring in films such as Adaptation and Leaving Las Vegas – and then there is the more wild and crazy Nicholas Cage who fans love to see going completely off the rails in films like Drive Angry and The Wicker Man remake. Technically, there is a third Nicholas Cage – one who appears in action films like the National Treasure movies – but he isn’t anywhere near as remarkable as the other two. Today we will look at the dark comedy simply titled Mom and Dad, a film that is a nice little romp on the dark side, and definitely fits into the camp of Crazy Cage.
The premise of Mom and Dad is pretty simple: it deals with the parental instinct to protect one’s child, but somehow it is switched into reverse, where the parents now want to murder their offspring instead of protect them. What exactly has caused such a bizarre and violent change? Is it some government bio-weapon gone wrong like in George Romero’s The Crazies? Or has nature decided to unleash a virus to help with the overpopulation problem as seen in M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Happening? This film posits a couple of theories – at one point we get an eerie shot of static filled television screens that could be hinting at a broadcast signal causing the change – but writer/director Brian Taylor doesn’t seem all that interested in giving reasons for the events that unfold, and when the movie’s end credits roll – without a conclusive explanation – some audience members may be less than pleased.
The film’s main protagonist is teenage daughter Carly Ryan (Anne Winters), who has more of an interest in her cellphone than what her mother, Kendall (Selma Blair) has to say. In fact, she’s the standard cliché self-absorbed teenager – that we’ve seen in countless after school specials – who doesn’t care if her callous words hurt her mother deeply. Kendall, on the other hand, has come to the conclusion that having your life put on hold to raise two children may have had a downside. We also have Carly’s little brother, Josh (Zackary Arthur), who seems to still have a good relationship with his father, Brent (Nicolas Cage), but their father/son relationship may be built on a broken foundation created by Brent’s own issues with his dad (Lance Henriksen), and when the “event” happens both Carly and Josh will discover how some of these issues can run quite deep.
Though billed as a “Dark Comedy,” Mom and Dad does tackle some serious issues – and handles them fairly well, for the most part. In particular, the Midlife Crisis that strikes many a family is summed up nicely when Brent bemoans to his wife, “We used to be Kendall and Brent but now were just Mom and Dad.” This loss of identity – and the perceived failure of a future they once were assured of – is at the heart of this film, and even though one can’t realistically blame a child for the lemons life has handed you, it’s certainly not an uncommon feeling. It’s this emotional undercurrent that elevates Mom and Dad from just being a horror version of Home Alone.
I’d go so far as to say that the comedic aspects of this dark comedy are rather downplayed, and aside from some sarcastic comments during the crisis – ones I doubt anyone in their right mind would say at that point – there really aren’t all that many funny moments in the film. As for horrific moments, there are plenty – I will just say one more thing about how dark this movie gets, and that would be Maternity Ward – a scene that is truly horrifying. *shudder*
Mom and Dad is not without its flaws – Carly’s boyfriend must have a head made of iron and a spine consisting mostly of rubber for all the damage he survives – but overall, it’s a solid horror film with great performances by all involved. I’d even say Cage restrained himself from going too over-the-top, as his character could have easily become cartoon-y if he had let himself go hog wild. and he handled his part with professional aplomb. So, if you’re not a person hung up on having all the loose ends tied up in a nice tidy bow by the time the credits roll, you will most likely have a fun time with this movie; but if you don’t like dark open-ended films, this may not be the one for you.