Mum & Dad (2008)

APRIL 17, 2009


Given how fucking awful the screening room was last year at the Fangoria convention, I was really hoping to not have to use it this year for any HMAD entries. But I ran out of time before I had to leave for the con, and had no choice but to check out Mum & Dad there, as I knew after the con I'd likely be carrying on the festivities elsewhere, perhaps with beer and Rock Band. Luckily, the screening room location changed, and at least in a visual sense, it is much improved. For starters, the screen is elevated, so if you're in the back you can still see it. There are also a lot more seats, so the 10 people max that bother to watch a movie there can spread out instead of getting their heads in each others' way.

Unfortunately, the sound was a total bust. If things were completely quiet, it would be acceptable (still very compressed sounding, as it was a mono sound source being played on two speakers), but that is not the case during a convention. Music from the auction room (to the right of the theater) and booming audio from the main panel hall (room behind the screen) was a constant distraction, and given that the film has a rather subdued sound design (i.e. lots of quiet scenes or people just talking), it became difficult to hear dialogue, and worse, impossible to really focus on the movie.

So it is with some hesitation that I say that it's not exactly the best of the survival horror genre. Maybe under a proper screening circumstance, I would be more enveloped into the film and feel more strongly about it. Because it's certainly better than say, Broken, which had similar subject manner (a man making a "family" out of unwilling kidnap victims). For starters, it has some actual character development, and not just from our protagonist. Her abductors are fleshed out as well. Even the mute "son", who is the closest any of them come to sympathetic, manages to get his state of mind across as the film progresses.

I also dug the occasional humor. It's the typically droll British stuff for the most part, and it's well-placed as well. Too much and you become a farce, too little and you prevent the audience from "getting" a rare joke in an otherwise bleak and dark film. And the humor (or, I guess, humour, as this is a British film) always comes from the family doing typical family things amidst all of the bloodshed around them, a la Texas Chainsaw (any of them in the original series).

It's also fairly suspenseful at times, but unfortunately that is a byproduct of the script's lack of surprise. Anyone who has seen this type of film knows how it goes - the girl gets kidnapped, tries to fight, eventually comes around and acts as the captors expect, then her plan goes awry, leading to escalated violence before her eventual escape. And given the fact that we HAVE seen films like this before, I kept expecting the script to turn the tables on our expectations, which made such standard stock scenes (like the inevitable "Girl gets free and sort of investigates the house rather than leave" sequence) feel a lot more suspenseful, because I kept expecting something different to happen than usual (i.e. she goes back to her room and chains herself back up before getting caught).

And that's the only real problem with the movie - it just doesn't add anything to the genre. It's not like I Know My First Name Is Stephen, where the victim eventually just succumbs to their new life, only to "snap out of it" when a new victim is introduced to the mix - she NEVER really accepts her fate, which would have been interesting from a character point of view. Even when she briefly acts like the dutiful daughter the titular characters expect her to, it's always clear that she's merely trying to catch them off guard. Plus this section of the film lasts less than ten minutes, so it doesn't really make an impact anyway.

Also, director Steven Sheil continuously cuts to shots of planes flying overhead. They serve their purpose - reminding us that there is a lot of noise that would drown out any screams, as well as the irony of someone being trapped with the entire world literally at their reach, but they are overused. At times, they will appear at top and tail of a single scene. I don't think they ever go more than 10 minutes without showing them (always in a succession of 3 shots, as well), and as a result they come off more as padding than as any sort of narrative/thematic device.

Finally, you see a fat man's ass. It's probably the most horrifying thing in the movie.

Still, it's worth a look (the movie, not the fat man's ass), especially if you haven't been exposed to a dozen of these things in the past couple years. There's nothing wrong with exploring familiar territory in a horror film, but when it's territory that is supposed to shock, it doesn't quite work when you follow the template so closely.

What say you?


  1. I Know My First Name Is Stephen! I watched that movie on TV when I was a kid, and had nightmares for years about being abducted.

  2. Nice use of the Philip Larkin quote that closes off the promo.

  3. found your site randomly when looking up info about this movie...

    have you lost your love for horror movies? do you even enjoy them, or is this just a commission deal?

    i don't mean to put you down, but it's sad to me to see someone who writes reviews on horror movies shitting on so many above par flicks.

    i realize you're a small site, but to turn people off about quality horror because it's not up to par with 'halloween' or the like, is again, just sad. i just hope people will give these movies a chance, as to support horror/independent movies in general.

    this opinion formed, after looking through some of your reviews.

    in regards to this film in particular, i've watched hundreds of horror movies in my day, and this one most certainly rises/holds up against many of them.

    again, i mean no personal offense, but if you can't enjoy a good ride with a more than reasonably made film, maybe try another genre?



  4. Well, at the end of the day, sir or madam, it is just my opinion... all horror movies, including Halloween (either version) have their detractors. For every folk such as yourself, who is seemingly confused that I wouldn't outright love this movie, there's someone wondering why I didn't outright trash it. Had I written say, 20 negative reviews in a row, I can see maybe considering a "break" from horror to refind my love for it or something, but seeing as of the 15 or so reviews posted this month, only one (A Haunting in CT) is one I would consider a "bad" review, I think I'm doing just fine in that respect.

    Also, if you want to split hairs, you can take a look at the "Crap" labeled reviews, and note the dates. I've given such a label to fewer and fewer reviews as time has gone on, not more. I actually thought I was getting soft...

    At any rate, thanks for posting - I hope you stick around for a while and realize that the last thing I can be accused of is trying to turn people off from horror movies. I've actually withheld my review of a recent high profile horror movie because I didn't want to spread any negative word on it until it was released.

  5. I was pleasantly disturbed by this movie! It takes a lot to do that anymore as I have been watching horror for over 25 years. Enjoyed the Britishness meets American gore. Somewhat predictable, but still enjoyable in that dark way we want them to be. Maybe some flashbacks of the "adopted kids'" experiences would have provided some extra depth... Or even some glimpses of the ordinary life "Angel" was trying to escape...

  6. I really enjoyed Mum and Dad, I just wished we learned more about Angel and why the son was so unwilling to speak even though they had long stopped drugging him up... Also, an insight into Dad's old life would have been great.

  7. I think you're dead on when you write that your review may have been tainted by the poor viewing conditions. As other commenters have posted, Mum & Dad is certainly above average for the horror genre.

    After reading comments and finding you also didn't care for The Haunting in Connecticut, another one I think is better than average, I decided to read through that review too. Again, you admit your opinion was affected by your viewing experience with a lousy audience. I know it's incredibly hard to do with movies as the experience goes hand-in-hand with the film itself, but as a reviewer that people look to for valuable information it's important to separate negative aspects that have nothing to do with what's on the screen from the movie itself. Keep in mind the people reading your review to decide whether or not to seek out a particular movie likely won't have executives sharing texts next to them while they watch.

    All of that said, I feel your pain. I haven't watched a movie in a theater for years due to the steady decline in audience behavior. Who wants to spend fifty bucks for snacks, 3D glasses and tickets only to have people texting, talking on the phone and babies crying in R rated movies? I highly suggest doing what I did years ago. Spend the money on a decent projector and sound system and watch them at home. It actually pays for itself rather quickly with saved money on tickets. Your advanced screenings will become a completely different experience.


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