Mum and Dad (2008 torture horror) Review

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Summary: A Polish woman gets invited home to meet a coworker's parents. Cue horror movie. Low budget, decent in that it often implies even worse things, but, unsurprisingly, not perfect.

BLOT: (19 Oct 2011 - 11:04:10 PM)

Mum and Dad (2008 torture horror) Review

Watched Mum & Dad tonight. A double billing with the 88-minute cut of Wicker Man. No, not the Nicholas Cage movie.

M&D is another entry in the torture horror genre. A Polish woman named Lena, effectively played by Olga Fedori, goes home with a coworker [Birdie, and Birdie's brother Elbie] after she, partially due to the Birdie's bumbling, misses a bus. Of course this is a set-up, and soon she is knocked unconscious with her vocal chords paralyzed to prevent screaming [movie makes this look routine, I have no idea]. She meets Mum and Dad (the title characters! woo), played appropriately creepy and well-bent by Perry Benson (one of the top reasons to watch the movie) and Dido Miles.

From here, we got a situation. Lena is chained up and is being forceably inducted into the family as long as she plays by the rules. What rules? Well, do whatever crazy batshit thing Mum or Dad want her to do: stay still and be quiet as Mum cuts you with a scalpel and carves shapes into you, sort through stolen goods and loot from the victims, be tolerate of Dad's massive porn addiction and his tendency to use body parts in his self-pleasurings, mostly be sweet like an Angel. etc. etc. Eventually, of course, she will have to give in and help them out in their depravity. In some ways, it is much a vampire movie, just minus the bloodsucking, and she is the unwilling convert who fights back against her new "brood".

On the upside, the film's low budget means that most of the actual beatings and tortures are off-screen. Nothing like hearing a buzzsaw and/or someone screaming through muffled walls to get a feeling of dread creeping. Fans of direct, in your face violence will balk, but since there is no upper bound of direct screen violence while there is often and upper bound for proper mood setting, I'll take Mum & Dad's approach. You still see blood. And parts. And one shot of semen. And more blood and parts and so on. You just don't get any hyper-realistic shots of human flesh being rent from its mortal frame. Likewise, there are hints of sexual violence (not quite the matching you would expect) and "incest" (quotation marks will make sense once you see the movie) but no actual on-screen rape, most just mild and seemingly mutual groping. I'll leave it there.

Also on the upside, you got Benson as Dad pulling a nutter act from deep down: equally Ed Gein and a surburban blue collar worker at the same time (which I guess makes him a mix Gein and...Gein). His screams about the importance of family would not seem out of place in a domestic drama about a wayward daughter, even if he is referring to alerting the authorities, etc etc. Fedori, as Lena, works well. In some scenes she looks 14 and very fragile. In others like a sweet little thing just wanting to make her parents happy. Then you get flashes of anger. Personally, I'd imagine some survival instinct would have turned her brain off here or there, with more numbness, but the movie doesn't have time to go full psych-101.

Finally, movie manages to sustain a very closed off, nightmare feel. Who knows what will set Mum or Dad off? The doors are locked, a person is always watched or chained in. Very effective sense of being trapped and not quite able to get away. Seriously. Someone was tapping into a bad dream he or she had once.

Chief downside is that it does little, outside of relying on implication rather than direct showing, that hasn't been done before. There a few scenes where the effects breakdown: a really bad black eye shows up, and a suitcase beating the simply doesn't work because after the beating starts, and Lena is supposedly trapped inside, it suddenly gets flatter and stops moving. Finally, the rate of killings compared to the time between feels a bit ridiculous. Maybe the time stamp is meant to be more like months than weeks, but it feels like a couple of weeks at best. You get at least a half-dozen killings in that time, including some of the neighborhood folk. That many bodies makes a smell. Someone is going to smell the rot. Etc.

Fair movie that makes use of what it has more than others that clearly have more, mostly coming down to the acting and the nightmare-like tension build up, with bits of "Oh...oh..." that are almost funny speckled throughout. Rental more than purchase, and do the old trailer bit before you sink into it, but I feel it's at least worth a once through.



Written by Doug Bolden

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