Horror is a very difficult genre to get right. Comedy is also a genre that can go wrong when you least expect it. So therefore a horror-comedy can be disastrous in the wrong hands. In recent years the (British) horror-comedy has had a rebirth with such great films as Dog Soldiers and Shaun of the Dead gracing our screens. The most recent comedy-horror hybrid from these fair shores is Mum and Dad and whilst not as entertaining as most, it is at the very least an admirable addition to the genre; albeit leaning more towards the side of horror than comedy.
Clearly inspired by the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; The Last House on the Left as well as the real life exploits of the well known British serial killing husband and wife team of Fred and Rosemary West, Mum and Dad is a film that aims to unsettle and revolt. It’s the laughs that let the film down.
Writer-director Steven Sheil’s film begins with Polish cleaner Lena (Olga Fedori) meeting Birdie (Ainsley Howard) and her mute brother Elbie (Toby Alexander)while working as a cleaner in Heathrow Airport. After missing her bus home Lena is forced to visit her new friends’ parents to get a lift. Before you can say Hostel, Lena is taken captive and tortured by Mum (Dido Miles) and Dad (Perry Benson), a couple who believe that family is everything. The film’s climax takes place on Christmas day when, during the family gathering from hell – Lena realises that she wasn’t the first new addition the homestead.
The main aim of Mum and Dad is to shock, and it carries this out with flying colours. However, the dark humour that is woven into the film’s fabric lacks punch and any sense of originality. The film has a slight 84 minute running time and the plot seems to have been stretched to breaking point. After all there are only so many times you can watch somebody get tortured and try to escape without getting bored.
Financed by Film London’s Microwave film scheme, whose aim is to produce films for under £100,000 Mum and Dad is a solid piece of horror cinema. Okay, so the acting may be verging on over the top (Benson’s “it’s all about family” schtick wears thin after about 10 times), but this is exploitation cinema after all and if you want to see torture then you have come to the right place.
A pretty decent addition to the horror-comedy canon, Mum and Dad may lack in originality but it more than makes up for it in gore. If horror is your thing then you could do much worse than visit Mum and Dad.
The continuing trend of DVDs in today’s market seems to be that low budget films come packed with the best special features. That is also the case for Mum and Dad. A geeky director and Producer commentary shows that director Steven Sheil has a true love of the horror genre and the “making of” is detailed. There’s also a good selection of interviews with cast and crew that show a dedication to a film that isn’t going to win major awards or clean up at the box office. Also included is a nifty short that shows Sheil’s potential as a directing talent.