Genre : Horror-Comedy
Country : USA
Director: Brian Taylor
Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair star in this pitch-black horror-comedy about a worldwide mass hysteria where, for 24 brutal hours, parents turn violently against their own children.
Nicolas Cage Hits Peak Nic Cage
When it comes to acting Nicolas Cage is an interesting case. Winning an Academy Award for his work in Leaving Las Vegas he has since gone on to develop an acting style unlike any other. Dubbed “Nouveau Shamanic” by Cage himself, it is a unique form of overacting that can make or break a film. It can either result in an unforgettable movie such as Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans or feel more like a parody of itself as seen in a number of direct-to-video fare. It takes a certain kind of director to harness Cage’s particular brand of acting. Thankfully for Mom and Dad, director Brian Taylor is more than up to the task.
One of the directors behind the Crank series and the Syfy show Happy! Taylor’s filmography has always had a distinct feel to it. More specifically he tends to push the boundaries and be as gratuitous as possible while still maintaining a fun, engaging story. His latest is no different and it makes for an enjoyable, if jarring, experience. On the one hand it gives audiences something new. Not only does Mom and Dad have children in peril but their safety isn’t guaranteed. It makes for a shocking, and enthralling movie to watch. That said this kind of carefree storytelling also effects the movie’s pacing. Exposition and flashbacks pop in abruptly effecting the flow of the movie. Despite these flaws it all makes for a frenetic, captivating movie. In other words, the perfect showcase for Nicolas Cage.
The big buzz around the trailer was the sheer amount of Crazy Cage and it doesn’t let audiences down. For most of the film audiences are treated to a wide-eyed Cage overacting as if his life depended on it. It’s the kind of exaggerated performance Nicolas Cage devotees eat up. That isn’t to say that’s all he does in Mom and Dad. Throughout the film we get flashbacks where Cage gets a chance to show off his acting chops. He does stellar work in these calmer dramatic moments without losing an undercurrent of rage. It’s a great performance from top to bottom and the ideal movie for Nic Cage to be his Nic Cagiest.
That isn’t to say he is the only good performance. As a whole the cast is great throughout. Selma Blair as the more levelheaded, put-upon wife Kendall and child star Zackary Arthur as their son Josh are excellent in their roles. Blair is particularly good before she gets infected, trying to figure out what is going on. But perhaps the best performance comes from Anne Winters. Best known for tween fair like Liz and Maddie, Winters puts in a heck of a performance as Carly Ryan. Starting as a typical rebellious teen she exudes a certain innocence that you want in your movie’s final girl. More importantly once things do start to go down her progression to the movie’s heroine feels natural. She always feels like a teen as opposed to becoming a full blown badass which is refreshing for a horror movie.
As mentioned before when it comes to his projects director Brian Taylor tends to take things to the extreme. Thankfully he brings this same sensibility to his first horror feature. While the idea of parents killing their kids in movies is still considered taboo Taylor dives headfirst into the concept. The parents shown in Mom and Dad are absolutely ruthless and will have you squirming throughout the movie. At the same time it never feels gratuitous either. Despite feeling like an older exploitation movie, it never goes all in with the gore. Instead it relies more on reactions and tension building which Taylor is surprisingly good at. Some scenes are downright chilling thanks to something as simple as a look. It’s a welcome change from the typically bombastic director.
If there is something the movie doesn’t do well it would be the comedy in the movie. For the most part the jokes about suburbia feel pretty standard. Things like the pervy yoga instructor or the housewife more concerned with being the “cool mom” are well worn territory. The delivery is fine it just isn’t particularly original though. Thankfully things do pick up when we focus more on the Ryan family. Mixing physical comedy with a more deadpan style it makes for a fun watch, particularly when Cage lets loose. Still the first 15 or so minutes can feel like Mean Girls leftovers. I can also see the way Taylor directs not being for everyone. The film’s style can be very frenetic and the way the flashbacks pop in and out of the story can be jarring for those that aren’t used to Taylor’s particular brand of film making.
Since the trailer dropped in late December, Mom and Dad has been touted as the pinnacle of crazy Nic Cage. And in all honesty, it probably is. The Academy Award-winning actor brings the same wild-eyed intensity he has become known for. But underneath that layer of Cage craziness is a pretty good cult movie. Even though the plot goes where you expect it to go and the humor can be hit-and-miss a stellar cast and a unique blend of tension building and gore make Mom and Dad the first great horror release of the year.