Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)

Directed by: Joseph Cates
Cast: Sal Mineo, Juliet Prowse, Jan Murray, Elaine Stritch, Daniel J. Travanti

Written by Tom Sheffield

Who Killed Teddy Bear is a psychological crime thriller that was released in 1965 but was refused certification on its original theatrical release due to its “sleazy, taboo-breaking nature“. The film has been newly scanned from one it’s few surviving 35mm prints and is available for the first time on Blu-ray and Digital. The restoration carried out involved careful grain management, both automated and manual removal of film dirt and damage, and correction of major instability, warping and density fluctuations.

After Norah (Juliet Prowse), a nightclub dancer, receives a series of obscene phone calls,  police detective Lt. Dave Madden (Jan Murray) begins an investigation to find the unbalanced pervert before he can act upon the threats he’s been making. Nora befriends the club’s busboy, Lawrence (Sal Mineo), and Lt. Dave Madden as he investigates her case, but who can she really trust?

Who Killed Teddy Bear has a strong cast that all give a superb performance, but its Sal Mineo as Lawrence was a personal highlight for a number of reasons. Lawrence is an incredibly unpredictable character and Mineo really stands out from his castmates in this film with this performance. Mineo’s mannerisms and facial expressions really elevate the presence of his unhinged character.

The perverted stalker is revealed to the audience halfway through the film in a dramatic stroke of a match that illuminates his face. At this point, it doesn’t come as much of as a surprise to the audience, not if you’ve been paying attention anyway. I imagine the reveal was much more of a surprise for those who had the chance to see it during its original release. It is, however, still a very dramatic and well-shot reveal. This reveal allows the story to explore this character more and offers up some shocking surprises along the way.

What I truly loved about Who Killed Teddy Bear is how it captured the era in which it was filmed. The swinging 60’s vibe oozes from this film, whether it’s the busy disco dancefloor at the nightclub or the taxi-lit streets of Manhattan, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Joseph Brun’s breathtaking imagery is truly the highlight of this film and his work here surely inspired a number of films that followed it.

Whilst this thriller may have lost some of its thrill over the years, it’s an incredibly well-shot film that offers an authentic look at the fashion and style of the 60’s and an incredible amount of work went into restoring this film, and it has really paid off in the end product. The film handles its genuinely creepy and frightening subject matter by pulling no punches, and it’s easy to see why it failed to be certified for a theatrical release back in ’65. The ending takes such a sharp turn in tone, you won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

Who Killed Teddy Bear is available to purchase digitally on October 15th and is released on Blu-ray September 17th. 

 

Tom’s Verdict:

3-5

 

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JUMPSCARECUT: Mandy (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough

Written by Abbie Eales

Set deep in the backwoods of  the northwest of USA in 1983, Panos Cosmatos phantasmagorical horror sees Nicolas Cage’s stoic lumberjack, Red Miller, seeking vengeance against a variety of ghoulish figures following the murder of the love of his life, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough).

The couple live in a house which could be from a fairytale, hidden in the woods, all glass walls, wood and peculiar angles. Mandy herself is the fairytale princess but one with a difference. Fragile and seemingly damaged, she appears almost otherworldly, thanks to both some excellent make-up and styling together with a beautifully subtle performance by Riseborough. She loves to read horror fiction and paints women and fantastical beasts, while clad in her Black Sabbath t-shirt and with her long dark hair, she could be the archetypal horror fan.

Although there is very little dialogue in the film, Cosmatos and co-writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn manage to pack a punch where it does punctuate the visuals, from the heart-breaking speech by Mandy about a childhood encounter with starlings to some of Cage’s later sassy one-liners. They manage to paint an idyllic picture of Mandy and Red’s life together, a picture which is soon shattered when a sinister cult calling themselves The Children of the New Dawn roll into town.

Red Miller feels like the character Nicolas Cage was born to play, allowing him to showcase his tender, restrained side but also unleash some unrelenting CAGENESS. He is both lover and warrior, starting out cosied up in pyjamas and ending with… well… it’s quite the journey. In one scene Cage finds himself in a chainsaw battle against one of his tormentors, something which feels gleefully inevitable after the opening scenes of him swinging a chainsaw in the woods.

A swirling sea of reds, purples and dark blues, Mandy is part art-house music video and part homage to horror of the 1970s. The cinematography is also  part high-art and part cover-of-a-cheesy-horror-novel brought to life. The visuals are so trippy and hallucinatory you are left feeling truly off-kilter, mixing a whole slew of styles together but staying surprisingly coherent. There is even an odd interlude by Chris ‘Casper’ Kelly, creator of Adult Swim cult film Too Many Cooks which pops up when you least expect it.

The score by Oscar winning composer Jóhann Jóhannsson,  who sadly passed away in February of this year, is a thing of absolute beauty, moving from delicate, shimmering guitars to an all out aural assault with bass tones heavy enough to shake loose the bowels of hell. It’s a classic in waiting.

Mandy is the batshit, Cage-filled, hallucinatory metal horror trip you didn’t know you needed.

Abbie’s Verdict:

4

The Secret of Marrowbone

Year: 2018
Directed by: Sergio G. Sánchez
Cast: George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Kyle Soller, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg

Written by Tom Sheffield

The Secret of Marrowbone was released in UK cinemas earlier this month and if I’m being honest, I haven’t really heard much about it anywhere. I went into the film only having seen the first trailer (some time ago I might add) and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Sometimes I like to head to the cinema and watch a film I haven’t seen or read anything about because going in with no expectations can really make for some special surprises!

Set in 1969, the film focuses on four British children who flee to American with their mother, who then exile themselves from the rest of their town following the death of their Mother due to the fact they live in fear that someone is chasing them down – something that is explored throughout the film. Their self-exile is to ensure the authorities don’t split the family up as they wait for the eldest sibling, Jack (MacKay), to turn 21 and become a legal adult. Jack does his best to look after his 19-year-old sister, Jane (Goth), 18-year-old Billy (Heaton), and the youngest of the siblings, 5-year-old Sam (Stagg), but tensions rise between Billy and Jack as the exile begins to take its toll. The Marrowbone children make a friend not long after their arrival in America, local girl Allie (Taylor-Joy), but she doesn’t know much about the family or their situation and so is left to piece together their story through hearsay and trying to get Jack to open up to her. The families self-exile appears to be going swimmingly until a bullet pierces a window, which narrowly misses Jane, and she lets out an almighty scream for Jack and then… the film jumps forward to the following Summer.

This jump feels quite jarring at first until the film progresses and the events we seem to have skipped are slowly pieced together through shared dialogue between the siblings. The children all seem to have put that event out of their minds and we see them carry about their day-to-day lives living in their old, creeky house. Jack is the only one who leaves the premises, and he does so to sell homemade baked treats to a local store and get books for Sam, who is obviously homeschooled. We then learn through Sam that he thinks there’s a ‘ghost’ in the attic, and this is where the supernatural undertones become prevalent, with lots of weird occurrences around the house, and we learn the children have taken measures to keep the ghost at bay, with one tactic being to cover or hide every single mirror in the house. Delving any further into the story would spoil the incoming surprises, so I shall say no more!

George MacKay gives an exceptional performance as Jack. As the eldest child, his siblings rely on him for just about everything and you can really feel the weight of that responsibility on his shoulders. But it’s not until the third act that MacKay really blew me away for reasons I can’t delve into because it would be way too spoilery – but once you get to the final half hour of the film, you’ll see for yourselves what I mean. Anya Taylor-Joy also delivers another outstanding performance but that’s really no surprise after seeing her in The Witch, Split, and Thoroughbreds. She continues to be an exciting talent who we should all be keeping an eye on, and I’m excited to see her as Magik in New Mutants when it finally releases (if it stops getting pushed back!). The rest of the cast also deserve love and praise for their respective roles. especially Stagg who is a frequent scene-stealer from his older co-stars.

It’s clear to see what Sánchez was aiming for with The Secret of Marrowbone, luring the audience into thinking they know where the plot is going before he throws a game-changing twist into the mix, but in the end, it just comes off like the film fails to settle on a tone. Admittedly, it takes some mulling over afterwards to really appreciate the story, and I think I would really benefit from a second viewing knowing what awaits at the end- so I look forward to picking it up on Blu-ray when it’s released. Tone aside, I really loved what Sánchez did here, and whilst it’s nothing new in the world of horror/thriller/mystery films, it was still a surprise to watch the events unfold how they did.

Xavi Giménez’s stunning cinematography really captures the how isolated the family are and how claustrophobic the whole situation makes them feel. There are some stunning shots of the surrounding fields, cliffs and beaches, but it’s the scenes inside the house that were my favourite. The house is fairly large, as are the numerous rooms it holds, but a large number of scenes are close-ups of the characters, making the rooms feel small and formulating that underlying sense of claustrophobia that the Marrowbones must be feeling. It’s the little details that really make the largest impact in this film, and that’s even more reason for me to watch it again so I can try to pick up on things I might have missed.

The Secret of Marrowbone kept me guessing right until the very end, and I’m sat here a whole week later still thinking about it. The young cast have a wonderful chemistry which gives the story the heart and emotion Sánchez was clearly aiming for. I would definitely recommend seeking this film out when you can, but don’t set any expectations for it and just let the story unfold.

Tom’s Rating:

4

 

Calibre

Year: 2018
Directed by: Matt Palmer
Cast: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Olivia Morgan, Tony Curran, Kate Bracken

Written by Hunter Williams

In the ‘Making of Shadow of a Doubt’ (1943), one of Hitchcock’s colleagues discussed Hitch’s fascination with bringing a sense of menace to a small, everyday American town.  The wholesomeness of urban neighborhoods is juxtaposed by the dangers of being in the deep city. 75 years later, Matt Palmer in his directorial debut, ‘Calibre’, employs the same painful suspense with the vast landscape of Scottish Highlands as the backdrop to a small village mystery.

Vaughn (Jack Lowden) says goodbye to his fiance, Anna (Olivia Morgan), before leaving with a lifelong friend, Marcus (Martin McCann) for a weekend long hunting trip. The village is small and dreary, having the majority of the town’s citizens couped up in bars during the day and barn houses during the night. If It weren’t for the village’s reputation of being a well-known hunting center, the place would be abandoned. While settling in, Vaughan and Marcus make friends with the ladies and enemies with the old, scruffy power holders of the town. It is the worst impression that could’ve been made in the event that something goes wrong.

Nothing could prepare them for what follows.

It was obvious from the beginning, ‘Calibre’ was a debut effort. This isn’t a criticism so much as it is an observation. Netflix’s recent film additions have been increasingly made up of indie filmmakers whose vision outdo the budget available to them outside of such an opportunity. It’s why reviewing films like ‘Calibre’ are becoming more important as the market continues to change rapidly in new and innovative ways.

In Palmer’s case, it works to his advantage. ‘Calibre’ exercises patience in Györi’s creping photography, only moving when the camera is an extension of an object within the film. It makes the story feel dense, despite its rather short run time of 100 minutes. This slow-moving pace builds tension within basic scenes, leading to an explosive final act that makes whatever came before it looks like a half measure in what’s considered thrilling.

The ending, while admittedly predictable, feels refreshingly dark in that it wasn’t afraid to force characters into bold choices. Sure, uncovering the mystery is satisfying. Adhering to moral conventions of law and death can *still* work. But, Matt Palmer disregards what’s easy for what is haunting.

The “resolution” to the mystery is as bloody as it is sad, which is why the final shot captures Vaughn’s traumatic weekend by staring the camera directly into his eyes as though he acknowledges that the audience, too, was complicit to the horror and yet nobody did anything.

Hunter’s Rating:

3

The First Purge

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Year: 2018
Directed by: Gerard McMurray
Starring: Lex Scott Davies, Y’lan Noel, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Marisa Tomei

WRITTEN BY COREY HUGHES

The ‘Purge’ franchise is one that has attracted somewhat of a cult following since the first instalment was released in 2013, with the horror films (‘horror’ being used loosely here) being renowned as guilty pleasures for many filmgoers. Although the franchise started out with a sub-par home invasion horror flick, the subsequent installments veered to more action-driven narratives, with ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ and ‘The Purge: Election Year’ trading in the cheap jump-scares for slow-motion shoot-outs. Whilst the hybridity of horror and action tropes can work if executed effectively (note ‘Aliens’ and ‘Zombieland’), the ‘Purge’ films have been nothing short of lacklustre thus far. Sadly, the fourth entry to the franchise follows in a similar fashion.

Set before the events of the first film, ‘The First Purge’ tells the story of the New Founding Fathers of America’s rise to power in the United States; a political party founded to rival the Democrats and Republicans in order to restore stability following an insurgency of unemployment in America. Their solution is simple: to conduct a sociological test that allows all crimes, including murder, to be legal for 12 hours. But when the test-zone community of Staten Island resist, the government takes matters into their own hands…

Admittedly, the premise of all crimes being legal for 12 hours is exciting. The notion of expelling repressed rage with no legal repercussions is one that we’ve all internally pondered at some point of our lives (some more than others), but for The ‘Purge’ franchise this premise has always been more satisfying than the final result.

The clear indication of The ‘Purge’ franchise acting as a social commentary for gun control anxiety and class discrimination in America is perhaps its only redeeming quality and it is all the more so inspiring when we get to experience such issues through the eyes of the minority. ‘The First Purge’ is refreshing with its culturally diverse cast who all bring a sense of pride to their roles, traits that are competently handled by a socially driven director in Gerard McMurray; whom notably has a producing credit on Ryan Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station’. The cast, for the most part, keep the film from sinking. Y’lan Noel is exhilarating as Dimitri; a notorious drug-dealer whose physical prowess makes John Wick look like Michael Scott attempting parkour, and Mugga brings a surprising dosage of effective humour as the foul-mouthed Dolores. Yet there are a handful of characters that feel lazily written, particularly Rotimi Paul’s Skeletor, who acts as a damaging embodiment of ‘crazed’ mental illness. Such laziness by writer James DeMonaco has burdened the entire franchise, with his over-reliance on telling rather than showing resulting in heavy expositional dialogue that pays the cast no favours, whilst simultaneously offering no sense of confidence in the audience’s capability in following along to the events that unfold.

Yet most frustratingly ‘The First Purge’ struggles to find a complementary balance between the horror and action set-pieces. The horror feels cheap with its abundance of lazy jump-scares, and the action, whilst entertaining, seems misjudged; culminating in a denouement that propels any sense of plausibility out of the window. Yes, there is an element of self-awareness to the film, and indeed the entire franchise, but where do we draw the line between mere popcorn entertainment and lacklustre filmmaking?

‘The First Purge’ is undoubtedly the most satisfying instalment in an otherwise forgettable franchise – but that doesn’t mean much, does it?

COREY’S RATING:

2-5

 

 

First Reformed

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Year: 2018
Directed by: Paul Schrader
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, Michael Gaston

Written by Jessica Peña

In Paul Schrader’s ‘First Reformed,’ we are greeted with a heavy despair and loss of faith through another venture in character study as told through the general perspective of Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke). The screenwriter behind Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed ‘Taxi Driver,’ with a hefty credit on Scorsese’s ‘Raging Bull,’ brings us his latest directorial effort in yet another depiction of “God’s lonely man.” We’ve seen the austere deterioration of Travis Bickle in ‘Taxi Driver’ where a world of sin and unjust things crept into his psyche. Here in ‘First Reformed,’ the influences of modern world environmentalism and spiritual radicalism collide in a message-heavy script. It asks big questions with big intentions, but may come off slightly pretentious toward its end, with the tendency to lose a general audience. Ultimately, there’s some stellar composition of ideologies to think on, a dreadful spiral akin to ‘Taxi Driver,’ and a steely career performance by Hawke to admire here. An ‘arthouse Taxi Driver’? Sure, but not nearly as masterful.

Toller works the service and tours at a small church in upstate New York, what was once a historical stop through the Abolitionist Movement. He’s experienced his own worst times since his son died in Afghanistan, his wife divorced him, and his health is seemingly in decline. The only line of hope is the funding and support he receives from the local megachurch ran by Reverend Joel Jeffers (Cedric Kyles). One day, he meets with one of his parishioners, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), in the hope that he’ll find time to speak with her environmental activist husband Michael (Philip Ettinger). The film begins its effect on Toller’s faith as Michael admits that he doesn’t wish for the baby they’re expecting to be born into such a damaged world. He confesses his disbelief of any good in all of society, sitting across Toller, with all of his pinned research and climate radars on the laptop behind him. Ettinger, for the time he has onscreen, is vulnerable as Michael, worrisome, visibly unstable and uncertain in regards to his future. He looks sickly as the manifestation of his radical intentions overrule. With this in mind, Toller feels it is now his duty to council Michael, not expecting what follows to be his breaking point.

Schrader’s religious background is evident in the translation from literary forms to the cold, cruel narrative that fuels ‘First Reformed.’ He’s infused it with a callback to the 1951 French film ‘Diary of a Country Priest’ directed by Robert Bresson, in which an outsider priest is unwelcome, criticised, blamed for unfortunate events, and crippled into devastation. Although not entirely original in its conception, ‘First Reformed’ nonetheless offers us the tragic story of defeated hope and how climate, environmental or political, can echo through our own morality. Its isolating scenes carefully keep us close by Toller and his walk on a thin rope.

Hawke taps into an otherworldly side of his acting that showcases a reversal in faith within his character. It’s up to perspective whether Toller truly is within his character to derail so abruptly. His demeanor is secretive and felt as an obligation to both Michael and to the world so many people leave behind. “Can God ever forgive us?” he asks Reverend Jeffers, a very convincing and supportive turn by Cedric Kyles. It’s deep within Toller’s own shortcomings in life that have paved the tenacity for his disarmament. He has an illness he tries to ignore by simply downing more scotch, maybe with a dash of Pepto Bismol. We come to know of his past affair with Esther (Victoria Hill), who works at Jeffer’s fancy Abundant Life church. Toller begins to push her and everyone else aside as he tries to understand God’s answers and just how agonizing the world has truly become.

As mentioned earlier, it is no ‘Taxi Driver,’ but Paul Schrader’s ‘First Reformed’ is a heavy story with loads to unpack, maybe even daring to ask us about the state of the world’s quiet disasters. It doesn’t give us anything quite new, but the journey into despair is engaging enough. Its morbid curiosity for the downfall of man plays well and you can tell Schrader is confident in his work, even in its most divisive moments.

Jessica’s Rating

3

Dark River

Year: 2018
Directed by: Clio Barnard
Cast: Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley, Sean Bean, Dean Andrews

Written by Hunter Williams

Following this year’s Lean On Pete, ‘God’s Own Country‘ and ‘The Levelling‘, the withering farmlands are a dramatic staple of 2018’s arthouse cinema. Clio Bernard’s ‘Dark River’ is a standout among this particular niche.

Inspired by Rose Tremain’s novel ‘Trespass’, Ruth Wilson’s Alice returns to her home village for the first time in 15 years after the death of her father, Richard (Sean Bean). The slow and enrapturing photography introduces the vast and unruled lands, underscored by the pounding footsteps of a nearby stampede. Alice wanders the once familiar home, looking hesitantly into darkly lit rooms that spark haunting memories of her father. Bernard’s patience will never let up, allowing the creeping darkness of the woods nearby to infect whatever future the farm may have had.

Ruth Wilson (Alice), once paired with co-star Mark Stanley (Joe), reacquaint themselves with the convincing power of a brother-sister bond that hasn’t been shared for 15 years. They are both excellent performances, using words for spare parts that focus more on the traditional emotional truth often found in the eyes and staging of actors (props to Bernard for distinct direction). Wilson in particular marks ‘Dark River’ as a major work within her filmography, matching the enveloping grief of Laura Dern in Fox’s ‘The Tale’ from earlier this year.

As their rural life is threatened by a housing agent upon Alice’s return, the past begins to overlap their future. Joe is unable to properly hold up the farm in grief of his father, but Alice insists on moving forward. Their conflict boils until not even the farmlands are able to quantify their history. The final third is the kind of bold move that will make it or break it for certain audiences. In this particular case, Bernard takes the typical Sundance fare of underlings returning home in light of a guardians death and transforming it into a disturbing resolution against abuse.

‘Lean On Pete’, ‘God’s Own Country’ and ‘The Levelling’ may be good in their own right, but Bernard is out for blood just as much as her main character Alice is. Which is why the final moments of ‘Dark River’ are as dark as the film suggests. Wilson and Stanley struggle to make eye contact, but their body language says it all: their commitment to each other is not bound by their history or land, so what does the length of the river matter if it’s already dark.

Hunter’s Rating:

4

Beast

Year: 2018
Director: Michael Pearce
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Trystan Gravelle

Written by Elena Morgan

Written and directed by Michael Pearce, Beast is an eerie and captivating debut feature film about isolation and secrets. Moll (Jessie Buckley) is a troubled young woman, stifled by her controlling mother (Geraldine James), the unwanted affections of nice but dull cop Clifford (Trystan Gravelle) and the isolated island community she’s a part of. When she meets loner Pascal (Johnny Flynn) she’s drawn to him even though people on the island suspect him to be behind a series of brutal murders.

Thanks to the music, performances and lingering shots on characters faces, you have a sense of unease throughout ‘Beast’. From the beginning you get a sense of something is not quite right with Moll’s family and the picture-perfect town she lives in. It’s the small-town mentality and the desperate need to keep up appearances for the sake of the neighbours, even if that could damage a loved one. When Moll meets Pascal she’s not sure she likes her family, or even likes herself, but with him it’s like she comes alive.

The chemistry between Moll and Pascal is electric, both know very little about each other, but they appear to bring each other out of their shells. They are in love and very little can stand in their way, but the suspicion of a community and doubts in each other’s minds might just do it. Jessie Buckley gives a powerful performance. She’s captivating whenever she’s on screen, portraying Moll as naïve but with a hidden steely core. Johnny Flynn is equal parts charming and menacing as Pascal, but he never manages to be unlikable. Both characters have dark pasts and secrets and you’re left to the very end wondering if either of them can be trusted.

The island is as much of a character as anyone else is in ‘Beast’. The woods, the beach and the rocky hills are a mixture of harsh reality and fragile beauty. It’s an almost dreamlike setting for Moll and Pascal’s relationship, giving them a weird and wonderful landscape for their twisty and passionate romance.

Towards the end of ‘Beast’, it did feel like the story was meandering along and there were multiple points where the story could’ve stopped and had a satisfying ending. But instead it carried on, attempting to tie up all loose threads while still leaving some questions unanswered and making the story feel longer and more complicated than necessary.

‘Beast’ is a tale of two halves, the first is a dark, brooding mystery, the second is a strange and unsettling drama. It’s an uneven film, but that does add to the sense of unease that’s present throughout this atmospheric film.

Elena’s Rating: 7.2 out of 10

Mom and Dad

Year: 2018
Directed by: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur

WRITTEN BY JESSICA PEÑA

As parents, you’re supposed to protect and care for your children, right? Sign their permission slips, feed them, make sure they make curfew, and one day kill them. No? Well, ‘Mom and Dad’ is so strangely engrossing and completely batshit crazy that you can’t help but enjoy your time watching it. Brian Taylor, responsible for those ‘Crank’ films starring Jason Statham, goes out on a limb here as he tries to create something uniquely bold. There’s no better way to tackle a film so bizarre than to assess it just as ferociously as its titular actor, Nicolas Cage. From ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ to ‘The Wicker Man’, Cage has never discouraged his passion to tackle everything. His career of oddball roles and an Oscar win have led him to this role. We see Cage demolish a pool table all while singing the Hokey Pokey. This is admirable in a way only the Nic Cage could pull off, because after all, he is a treasure-seeker. Alongside Selma Blair, ‘Mom and Dad’ tabs quite the impression, just so long as you forgive its crumbling narrative and abnormal editing. It is ridiculousness wrapped up in pure adrenaline fun.

‘Mom and Dad’ is unlike your usual nonsensical trip. Imagine your modern suburban society. Now imagine it if all parents were to suddenly snap into feral instincts to kill their children. That’s pretty much the premise of ‘Mom and Dad’ and it never lets go of you. It cranks up the psycho and leaves you unsupervised to deal with its mess. Fast-paced and sketchy, it makes its way through a string of violent chases to give the audience an erratic feeling of discomfort without ever really saying anything, but that’s it. There’s nothing more to offer here than a nihilistic approach to parenting. One day, parents just show up early outside of school cafeterias just waiting for that bell to ring so they can wring some necks themselves. It’s oddly amusing to see these same parents tackling and murdering their children running across the football field. The choreography is really loose and wild, allowing for some quick camera work to focus in on the madness.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and for that, we’re grateful. You could even give it a pass as a thrilling comedy. Cage and Blair give convincing performances that snap to fluid hysteria like a weak twig. Cage breaks into a maniacal, kill-hungry father and it’s a no-brainer this performance will be recorded as another cult “freak out” in his career. Cage is unabashedly charismatic and glorious in this role. We couldn’t have expected much else here, and hey, we can really get a kick out of this! Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur star as the two kids trying to escape from their parents’ grasp. They have to work together to overcome this insatiable strike and we can sort of get behind them at some points. The game of cat and mouse gets a strange twist here. More than its unnecessary parent backstories and questionable origins, the film suffers a lot out of its abrupt ending. Maybe we didn’t come in for much, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Nothing is quite resolved and we realize it was just all show, no prize.

If you watch ‘Mom and Dad’ hoping for a critically good film, you’re not going to have a good time and you’re going to be greatly disappointed. It’s the kind of film you put on when you have friends over and you just want to see them squirm at just how laughably insane the film is. Truly, it’s a film better enjoyed if you just roll with its lunacy. It’s safe to say it’s self-aware of how crazy the core concept is, so it plays with its execution, although a complete mess, and gives us a backbone of crazy resilience to feast on. I’ll say it, it’s my favourite Brian Taylor film (though that’s not saying much). Our beloved Nic Cage did not go underused and that’s all we really care about.

 JESSICA’S RATING: 5/10