It starts with a day in the suburbs that’s like any other day in the suburbs: dad (Nicolas Cage) clocks in at work, mum (Selma Blair) heads for yoga, teen daughter Carly (Anne Winters) and her little brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) go to school. OK, so dad might have played a little rough in a tickle fight with his son, but no one could predict what happens next.
Namely, that a signal transmitted on TV and computer screens makes every parent in town – and, according to news bulletins, America – hell-bent on killing their kids. Mothers stalk the school gates like lionesses eyeing trapped bison. Fathers glare at the row of newborns laid out in a nursery. Seventeen-stone men rugby tackle their fleeing teenage daughters on the football pitch. And Carly and Josh make it home to lock themselves in the basement, Night of the Living Dead-style, only for their own folks to start hacking at the door…
To some, the mere concept of Mom and Dad will be too much – there’s a reason why adults killing children is the domain of horror films such as Village of the Damned, Who Can Kill a Child? and The Omen, and then only when the sprogs are evil.
To others, raised on exploitation movies and/or possessing a wide streak of mischief, the execution (or rather executions) will disappoint – no doubt fearing the censors, Mom and Dad never goes full-throttle, implying rather than showing when a kamikaze splatterfest would have arguably rendered the laughs more explosive. There’s certainly nothing here as shocking as the blonde girl being gunned down in John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13.
But there is fun to be had, and a fair amount of it. Written and directed by Brian Taylor, who last teamed with Cage on Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and who previously co-helmed (with Mark Neveldine) the crazed Crank movies, this employs his now-signature style of hurtling camera moves spliced with fish-eyed close-ups. Knives, pick axes and even pointy coat hangers are wielded in the kids’ direction, while Cage unleashes his bug-eyed bonkers act, smashing shit up and screaming “ANAL BEADS!” with lusty gusto.
Under the carnage lurks a blunt-force satire on ageing and the American Dream, with Blair rather touching as the electric saw-wielding mum who gave up her career for a family that no longer appreciates her. Other ideas (equating the inbuilt lifespan of today’s tech to nature’s constant upgrading) are interesting but soon forgotten, and Taylor’s invention, always thrashing against the shackles of a tight budget, runs out of puff before finding a satisfactory climax.