(US/UK - 2018)
Written and directed by Brian Taylor. Cast: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Lance Henriksen, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert Cunningham, Olivia Crocicchia, Marilyn Dodds Frank, Rachel Melvin, Samantha Lemole, Sharon Gee, Adin Alexa Steckler. (R, 83 mins)
An inspired mash-up of 28 DAYS LATER, HOME ALONE, AMERICAN BEAUTY, and Bob Balaban's 1989 cult classic PARENTS, MOM AND DAD is the first solo effort of Brian Taylor, half of the Neveldine/Taylor duo behind the gonzo Jason Statham masterpiece CRANK. Neveldine/Taylor's anarchic, adrenalized style of filmmaking only got more over-the-top with each subsequent film, like the forgettable GAMER and the unwatchable CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE, which has its defenders but is just too stupid for its own good, whether Statham is growing to Godzilla size or David Carradine is playing an Asian guy named "Poon Dong." The crazier Neveldine/Taylor got, the more they regressed. The pair parted ways after 2012's GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (another film I found terrible but one that has its admirers) and while Neveldine went on to be involved in a number of awful films (he directed THE VATICAN TAPES and produced URGE and OFFICER DOWNE), Taylor laid low until he resurfaced in 2017 as a co-creator of the Christopher Meloni SyFy series HAPPY! MOM AND DAD has distinct elements of the Neveldine/Taylor style, but even amidst its batshit lunacy, it's a film with a clear vision and assured, controlled direction. It's smart, it's thoughtful, it's funny, and on a few occasions shocking. It's the best thing Taylor's done since CRANK, and the early buzz from last year's Toronto Film Festival gave some serious cause for celebration: this is the best Nicolas Cage movie in years.
"It Must Have Been Love." After Carly and her boyfriend Damon (Robert Cunningham) flee the school and head to the Ryan house, Brent is already there waiting to kill Carly and Josh--with Damon being collateral damage--and he's soon joined by Kendall, as Carly and Josh barricade themselves in the basement while Mom and Dad reroute the gas line to flush them out, armed with a meatcleaver and a Sawzall ("A Sawzall...saws all!" Brent keeps repeating) waiting to attack when the door opens.
VENGEANCE: A LOVE STORY, he's at his unhinged best here, whether he's demolishing a pool table while screaming "The Hokey Pokey," ranting to Damon about anal beads and ass-to-ass dildos, or just randomly shouting or running around the house barking. Blair is a bit more restrained as Kendall, instead going the less-is-more route, using a dead-eyed glare as she chases her children through the house, hellbent on slaughtering them in the most brutal way possible. There's also other unsettling and dark-humored bits throughout, like new fathers in the hospital looking through the window into the nursery, seething with unexplained rage, barely able to wait for the chance to kill their infant children; a mother pushing a stroller in front of a speeding car; and a radio announcer's grave warning to parents, "Do not go near your children!" On a deeper level, MOM AND DAD is a film about the frustrations of parenting and about parents in midlife crises. In a flashback, Brent and Kendall have an epic argument that turns emotional when both realize they aren't the people they thought they'd be and that their dreams never came true (a point earlier brought home by the use of Dusty Springfield's version of "Yesterday When I Was Young"). They're losing touch with their children with each passing day. Indeed, bratty, bitchy Carly can't even, and does little but roll her eyes and dismiss her mother, even stealing $80 from her purse to buy drugs for a party. "We used to be best friends," Kendall tells Carly, who snottily replies "Well, I have new friends now. It's not my fault you have no life."