Brian Taylor’s “Mom and Dad” has a really good idea on its hands and sometimes he doesn’t really know what to do with it. “Mom and Dad” best sums up the whole of its premise in the opening where Taylor stages the film like the opening to Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead.” A mom looks back at her toddler sitting in its seat, gets out of the car and walks away calmly as a train barrels down on it. We then flicker to a small suburb from top view where carnage is about to ensue. Granted, “Mom and Dad” begins very tensely and starts off with a lot of mounting suspense that kept me glued to the screen.
It’s just that forty five minutes in, Brian Taylor clearly runs out of ideas and just keeps operating his narrative on fumes, injecting his dark comedy as much as he can with a goofy twist in the finale. Set in America, one day a seemingly separate series of murders involving parents and their children causes the media to realize that it’s now an epidemic. For some reason all of the parents in America are turning on their children, relentlessly hunting them down and murdering them. The odd fact is that it’s strictly parents and their children, leaving the rest of the world to scramble to figure out what’s causing this and why. As rebellious Riley races home from school to save her brother from their potentially murderous maid, mom and dad Kendall and Brent give in to their murderous inexplicable urges and begin to hunt for their two children.
“Mom and Dad” garners the same kind of pitch black humor we’ve come to expect from a Brian Taylor film. Even with Nicolas Cage on board as a classic unfulfilled dad facing middle age who is having a hard time keeping his disappointing life from ruining his marriage. Selma Blair is very good as mom Kendall who is at first a witness to the murderous rampage of the local parents, and then realizes that killing her two children might not be a bad prospect. Blair is fantastic in the role, while Cage is basically Nicolas Cage except in a darkly comic horror role. Writer and director Taylor makes the most of his time with his past collaborator, offering him a lot of chances to chew the scenery, and even launch in to a few of his classic monologues. That said, “Mom and Dad” falls apart after forty five minutes mainly because Taylor loses sight of his premise and concept.
It’s heavily implied that there is a signal that comes through electronics setting off parents, so what is it that’s setting this trigger? Is it the government? Terrorists? Or Aliens a la “The Twilight Zone”? And what’s the definition of “parent”? Is someone who’s adopted a child or a step parent prone to this weird murderous rampage? What of grandparents that have adopted their grand children? Taylor never seems to really know and never actually explains it to us. There isn’t even a hint or some slick after credits scene, it’s just inexplicable violence, in the end. “Mom and Dad” is a solid darkly comic horror film with some strong ideas in its corner. If it were more cohesive in its delivery perhaps it could have risen to be a great horror film.
In Theaters, on VOD and Digital HD on January 19.