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Mom and Dad
Nuclear families go into meltdown in writer-director Brian Taylor's deranged horror comedy, which conceives a sick and twisted battle of wits between children and their blood-crazed parents. Retro opening titles accompanied by Dusty Springfield's rendition of Yesterday When I Was Young perfectly set the scene for wanton carnage in leafy suburbia. The evisceration begins in earnest during the credits with a mother abandoning her SUV on a level crossing, her child perched on the back seat, as a speeding train bears down on the vehicle. Soon after, another mother stabs her teenage son with a set of car keys, a father prepares to gore his boy with a broken bottle and another man suffocates his teenage daughter with a black bin liner. In one of the film's most unsettling sequences, a mother (Samantha Lemole) gives birth then proceeds to throttle her mewling newborn before grabbing the nearest scalpel to cut more than the umbilical cord. The madness permeates a wide-eyed and wildly exaggerated lead performance from Nicolas Cage, who has made a career out of relinquishing his grasp on sanity in front of the camera. Here, the Oscar-winning actor rages against the world as a patriarch consumed by self-loathing and regret, who discovers that the best outlet for all that pent-up frustration could be a power saw held to the throats of his bickering children. Bursts of static transmitted through television screens and radios ignite filicidal urges in mild-mannered parents. As mass hysteria sweeps through America, Brent Ryan (Cage) and his wife Kendall (Selma Blair) struggle to connect with each other, their truculent daughter Carly (Anne Winters) and young son Josh (Zackary Arthur). Kendall pleads with her self-obsessed daughter to consider others as they prepare for a family dinner with Brent's parents, Mel (Lance Henriksen) and Barbara (Marilyn Dodds Frank). "Doesn't everyone's life revolve around themselves?" petulantly responds Carly, who has been forced to cancel her date with boyfriend Damon (Robert Cunningham). Parents storm the local high school, full of murderous rage for their offspring, and Carly realises that her irritating little brother is in jeopardy. She races home, but Brent and Kendall return before the children can make their escape. The terrified youngsters seek refuge in the basement while the parents, armed with a meat tenderiser and sharp words, lament their lot. "I used to be Brent and you used to be Kendall. Now we're just mom and dad..." despairs the demented man of the house. Mom And Dad is an entertaining and loopy satire on modern family values, which allows Cage to play unhinged at maximum volume. Horror fans will delight at generous splashes of gore including one icky scene with a coat hanger. Writer-director Taylor's penchant for flashbacks dissipates dramatic tension at critical moments but at 86 minutes, his film doesn't outstay its welcome.