Savage At Heart
The understanding that love hurts has been written about in endless songs and poems throughout the decades/centuries and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. A lot of the lines and wails are generally swirling around the same topics, as if we don’t actually learn anything about our feelings, ever. You need a license and lessons to drive a car, but not your own headspace, which of course can be more destructive than any vehicle.
A great support system to maintaining the emotional repetitive ignorance is not openly talking about the issues that are stewing in the back of our minds, boiling and bubbling away on the stove of life, hopefully never to boil over, or indeed explode into a chip pan fire of a day.
With the Machiavellian glee of mischief strung out on WAY too many mushrooms, we have the supreme being that is writer/director Brian Taylor tenderly smiling at us whilst supportively stepping forward to said boiling fat with a loving bucket of water. My, doesn’t the skin melting explosion look so pretty.
If you know any of Taylor’s creations, you’ll known the incredible individual Angel Dust (and ALL the other drugs together too) strung out vision that he has mainlined to the world. There is how you brain worked prior to seeing his 2006 insanely wonderful ‘Crank’, and there is how it was subsequently chasing the dragon, or Statham. You either base jumped on board immediately or you went back to doing your crossword.
Following up with varying levels of success, but always unforgettable in vigour and spirit we have his latest corneal rush ‘Mom and Dad’ (2017) which of course he has written and directed, so thankfully there’s zero chance of any of the madness being filtered or diluted out.
Also once again he has an equally unique force on board in the shape of Nicolas Cage who he worked with on a previous (miss) adventure ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ (2011), which despite all the flames involved, wouldn’t have been able to melt butter it was so weak.
Extremely not so the case on this new urban fairytalesque nightmare which has not only the always brilliant Selma Blair (Kendall Ryan) but also an incredible return to form Cage (Brent Ryan).
The Ryans are your average white collar, hard working all American family, dutifully grafting every hour possible just to survive, to pay the ever increasing bills without any possible release of it’s oppression or an ounce of gratitude from anyone. The American dream eh. Rounding off this little league team we have the delightfully meme mouthy savvy kids Carly (Anne Winters) and Josh (Zackary Arthur).
The film starts off with a wonderful sly play on 70s family TV shows credits and music laying down the lets gather round the family vibe. Of course this being a Brian Taylor movie that ain’t gonna last long, and in fact for the attentive, there is an undercurrent of a more sinister strata helped with a killer John Carpenter influenced score, and indeed there’s a early sequence with a young mother and her new born in a car that sets up the modus operandi for the film.
It’s never qualified as to why it has happened (probably an app released by Trump), but things of course start to go wrong, incredibly wrong as some sort of signal is rewiring parents brains. Reports are coming in of parents attacking and even killing their own kin. This is starting to happen while the Carly and Josh are at school, but even there, a unnerving buildup of parents are lining the periphery of the school walls, Show and Tell has just evolved into Show Up And Kill.
The build up to the carnage is gradual, but be in no doubt at all, it is carnage, but being a fully convicted to the cause of VERY black comedy, there is a wonderful creative, very violent dispatching of annoying kids all round. And this is where Taylor knocks it out of the park for a true home run.
Like Sci-fi, the best horror movies have a social commentary buried under their patio. In the case of ‘Mom And Dad’ the trials, tribulations and relentless torment and pressures of being a parent in a world and society that pretends to be supportive of such expeditions, when in actual fact it does every single thing possible to make it increasing difficult (or more realistically impossible) to achieve that. The constant bombardment of images presenting the aspirations of a functioning family, where said aspirations happen to cost thousands, increasing the profits of the companies selling the lie, while also increasing the deficit of humanity and indeed sanity.
There are bodies lying all over the playground as the ‘infection’ takes hold, and inevitably ends up in a Home Alone in The Shining scenario where the kids aren’t alright as their parents are trying to murder them with an electric saw and basically any other handy home gadget they can find. See, all those impulse buys can be useful.
As the frenzy builds, so too the stunning glitched soundtrack (score debut by Mr. Bill ) and editing which work like a possessed Baby Driver with a Bill $aber mixtape, where the image, music and story work hand in blood drenched severed hand. There is 100% conviction to the cause by all concerned too, which is the only way to get away with such frenzy, and in turn help Cage do one of his best performances ever as he beautifully (insanely) plays off the wonderful mad eyed Blair.
It could have been just all played for the torture porn violence of yesteryear, but despite it’s feral DNA the moments that deal with the genuine struggles of parenthood, getting older and the inevitable disappointments that we place upon ourselves and others in life are poignant and truly heart melting, and to be brave enough to recognise these aspects and place them in films really has to be commended, even if it’s not tears that are being wiped away, but arterial blood splatters.
There are some stunning set pieces and scenes that have the hallmarks of potential cinematic genius (wait till you see Taylor’s forthcoming ‘Happy!’). But it’s early days and it has flaws too, though they’ll not distract or dissect away from the fun. What it certainly achieves is instant cult status, with a sure favourite must see and repeated viewings forever more, and it though not as successfully realised as ‘Get Out’, they’d make a great double bill. Absolutely see ‘Mum and Dad’ on the big screen as even then it can’t contain what Cage has brought to the family butchers block.
8/10 ‘Mom & Dad’ is out 9 March in the UK.