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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family Matters

mumanddad Just when you thought Falcon’s parents were insane, let me introduce you to Mum & Dad. Parents with incredibly high values and even higher expectations from their kids, but these aren’t pageant mom’s we’re talking about here folks. Instead of making their kids learn dance moves, go tanning, and wear bedazzled sparkle motion inspired outfits, Mum & Dad expect their kids to provide them with new children to support their sadistic habits. The entire family lives near an airport, where Dad and both his children Birdy (Ainsley Howard) and Elbie (Toby Alexander) also work. The family makes extra cash and keep’s their wardrobe fresh by stealing from the cargo holds and offices at the airport - which is also where they find new brothers and sisters to bring home to expand this loving family.

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Lena (Toby Alexander), a Polish immigrant who just moved to the area, makes acquaintances with Birdy while working together at the airport. Birdy tries to invite Lena out for drinks, but Lena isn’t interested and just wants to head home after her long day at work. Unfortunately for Lena, she misses her bus ride back home and Birdy talks Lena into coming home with her and Elbie to try and get a ride from there. Lena reluctantly agrees and goes to their house, which turns out to be a very big mistake when she meets Birdy and Elbie’s Mum & Dad.     

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What looks like a normal set of parents on the surface, Mum & Dad are actually a demented couple of people with a skewed view of what it means to be a family. After drugging and imprisoning Lena, she is explained the rules of the home. Basically, if she is a good girl, she will have a roof over her head, food on the table, and clothes on her back. If she misbehaves, she will be left to the devices of Dad, a homicidal maniac who doubles as a sexual deviant. Dad spends a lot of his time behind closed doors doing unspeakable things to previous bad children, which is only slightly seen at first, but it is clear that you want absolutely nothing to do with what he is up to. Mum, looks at Lena as her new daughter and shows how much she loves her by scarring her body with sharp instruments which are referred to as “battle wounds.” Seems like a pretty shitty thing, but if Lena doesn’t go along with it and resists the torture in any way, that would be considered misbehaving and lead to some alone time spent with Dad.

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Mum & Dad is a 2008 British film written and directed by feature length first timer, Steven Sheil. Sheil does a solid job for a newb and has a strong sense of movie making ability. He successfully creates tension for most of the running time as there is always a lurking fear that Dad might snap at any moment. Mum & Dad is a torture porn film (a term I am iffy about…actually, I kinda hate it) in how the story unfolds for the protagonist as well as how the film looks stylistically. There are the dingy, dirty dungeon looking bedrooms that you would expect from a movie of this genre, but there is also a contrasting other aspect of their home that looks very prim and proper. Very much like Mum & Dad themselves. A nice glossy veneer, but filled with madness and chaos just beneath the surface.

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Everything is lit nicely and there’s this very creepy and effectively odd score that is less musical and more of a pulsating sound - like feedback or static radio signal. Some of the things in this movie are unsurprisingly VERY harsh, but that’s to be expected with a film of this nature. This isn’t like a Martyrs harsh (or a Martyrs good), but there are some very sick moments and Lena is constantly physically and mentally abused throughout the movies runtime. There is one scene in particular involving Lena, a suitcase, a mallet, and a very unhappy Dad that is a little on the tough side to watch. Some of the scenes involving Mum and her torturous habits are jarring, especially in how she administers them in such a loving way.  Heck, even at the dinner table nothing is sacred and while being set in a very normal looking kitchen, instead of BBC or Soccer playing on the tele,  there is hardcore porno on.

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Dido Miles who plays Mum and Perry Benson as Dad are both fantastic in there roles and play some of the most callous and merciless parents ever to appear on screen. John and Kate Never seemed like such great parents all of the sudden when watching these two go to work. Both of the children are pretty good with Ainsley Howard showing a strong performance as the manipulative Birdy - Toby Alexander as Elbie is decent, but he doesn’t have much to do since his character doesn’t speak. Of course, Mum & Dad hinges on Olga Fedori as Lena and she does a nice job playing a very physically demanding role, and it’s hard not to find yourself hoping she will refrain from making any mistakes and pissing off the crazed parents.

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Overall the movie is well paced, but after a while it starts to get a little tiring and I began losing some interest around the end of the second act. While I do enjoy some of the films that this genre type has to offer, watching a movie like this can be a little taxing with the whole punish, torture, abuse, rinse, repeat. However, the last twenty five minutes or so make some of the slump more than bearable. Starting with the most demented Christmas celebration ever my eyes have witnessed, complete with human decorations and all, Mum & Dad hits a wicked high with its insanity, which then leads to a fantastic finale that totally pays off.

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In the end, Mum & Dad is a solid film made for a very modest budget (£100,000 in British pounds, which equals to roughly 160 thousand U.S. dollars) and does a lot with a very little thanks to some great direction by Steven Sheil and solid acting from the cast. There are a few points where the film gets a little stale and if you’re not a big fan of torture porn styled films, then you will more than likely not change your view after seeing Mum & Dad, therefore, you shouldn’t bother. There was enough positive in the movie for me to enjoy it overall and the end is what sealed the deal for me in how the events unfolded and concluded in a very satisfying fashion. If you can handle seeing a father nut in an organ he used to masturbate, only to see it ooze out a little when he’s done, then you should know whether or not you would want to see Mum & Dad.   torture

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for reviewing this one Matt - I keep seeing it in my local video shop and it has stuff like 'Best British Horror Film, like EVA!!' and 'Totally Unique, and like, REALLY FUCKIN' RAD!!' emblazoned all over its cover. After reading your review I might actually pick it up next time. I trust your judgement. ;o)

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  2. If it has the word RAD on the cover, it has to be good. Great review, checking this one out ASAP.

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  3. I can't quite get the right words out...would I watch this experiment.?..probably on a cold night,all alone with my two dogs at my feet for protection...ha ha...and we thought the Brits were all Prudes...

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  4. I've heard very very good things about this one. Now that it has the Matt-suzaka seal-of-approval, I'm pretty psyched!

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  5. James: Ha ha! Those blurbs may be overstating it a bit! It is a solid film and one I suggest, as long as you know what you're getting into, you should enjoy it.

    POT: Thank shun! If the word RAD is on the cover, then that could possibly mean that the greatest BMX movie finally got a DVD release! I can only dream.

    Frank: It's a shocking film at times, but it almost has a humorous side to it in a way. It certainly isn't every ones cup of tea...or every dog at your feet's bowl of water either!

    Chris: Thanks, Chris...I would love to hear your thoughts on it (as well as everyone else's). It is not the film I expected it to be, though I'm not really sure what I expected. I did enjoy it though!

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  6. I really dug this movie the first time I saw it (at the world premier no less). I was thoroughly grossed out at the cummy meat scene, almost to the point of orgasm.
    I'd describe it, succinctly, as a Mike Leigh torture porn. Almost like a kitchen sink drama about the family from TCM. I dunno if kitchen sink drama translate into foreign (American) but whatever.
    It does not hold up to repeat viewings though, which is a shame. If you want a serious or similarly darkly humoured Brit horror I would recommend Eden Lake, My Little Eye, Boy Eats Girl (although it is a little more broad in its humour), The Cottage and some others I can't think/be bothered to list.
    I wanna see you review fucked up Brit bizarre-a-thon The Evolved which got released through Troma, or the equally retarded Exterminator City. Make it so.

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  7. Im with everyone else, I kept adding it and deleting it from my que but I am back on board again, thanks for the review man!

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  8. Jamie: I can see Mum & Dad not being a good repeated viewing, but I don't think I need to see it again for a while anyways. And that cum filled meat chuck was so nasty, but imagine the flavor if slow cooked?!

    I will definitely keep my eye open for The Evolved and Exterminator City..they look fantastic! I have Eden Lake on my instant queue, so maybe I'll give it a watch sooner rather than later, but I have seen and love My Little Eye. I wasn't the biggest fan of Boy Eats Girl, however, actually, I did a review of it teamed up with Dance of the Dead at Paracinema...The Blog way back. Thanks for the comment! I read it in your voice!

    Carl: No problem...hope you dig it! I had it for a while before I finally sat down to watch it and I'm glad I did.

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  9. I wanna first ask you your beef with torture porn. I suppose the phrase in general. Then propose you do a blog entry on the things about abject cinema that grind your gears. I'm curious to know.

    To me this sounds like Texas Chainsaw meets Hostel.

    Which honestly, I took both films with a grain of salt. And further, there's only so much I can take and have to be in some type of non-spooked mood to really get into.

    My affinity or lackthereof for these sorts of films hangs in vast limbo. I'm not sure if they're to be liked as much as they are to be seen as psychological thrillers that meant to question the not-so sunny side of human nature within us all. My great grandpop was a cop so films like this only scratch the surface of some pretty hardcore cases...

    Fear is as vague as any other emotion.

    I'm still on the fence as to whether I'll see it but as always, stellar review.

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  10. I don't have a problem with the "genre" itself, so much as the title. It's meant to be derogatory towards an aspect of the horror genre, created to almost throw away a group of films as mer porn. Is it Exploitation? Certainly, and that has always been a term more fitting to films like that...to exploit the sense and inner fears of real life horrors with intense violence and situations.

    You bring up Texas Chainsaw, which is a great example of a whole slew of films from over the many years that horror has been around, that fit that same Torture Porn mold. But no one ever called those film's Torture Porn before, they were just gritty and realistic horror films that tried to incite a reaction through seeing someone go through something terrible.

    It's an insult to the horror genre and totally tries to discredit it, which has been the case in the past with Slasher films. Even the term Slasher was meant to degrade those films of that time, but kind of like racial slurs, it was turned around and embraced over time, almost diffusing its negative meaning.

    As for the films themselves, I like many of them and I am actually a fan of both Hostel films, but I totally agree with what you said about human nature and what sick things people get off on. Horror has to always change and the genre itself just delves deeper into what we all fear as a society, which is being kidnapped, held against our will, tortured, and killed. It's the next level of fear, however, are they always scary? Not necessarily, I find them more fun and enjoyable for the sheer gruesomeness of it all, but I find my true movie scares from less in you face horror. Others may buy into the fear aspect of it though.

    I'm curious as to how the genre is received in 10 or 15 years...

    Whew! I should have just done a post about it (and maybe someday I will...BWHAHAHAHAHA!)!

    Thanks for the great comment, Ashlee! You got a solid rant outta me!

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  11. That's my job.

    And you made some extremely good points I haven't even thought of so thank you. They're valid and rooted in history and much like it, these sensationalistic catch phrases are even made out of the fear within the fear found in the film.

    Much easier to dismiss it than face it.

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  12. We came away with an almost identical take on the film here Matt, I had to skip most of the details on the last read through to avoid any spoiling but I hit on many of the same points you liked about the film. I was cracking up during the making of because my notes mentioned 'Pete Walker' and 'Tobe Hooper' then Shiel immediately touched on FRIGHTMARE and TCM being direct influences on the film. Gotta love it.

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