Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mum & Dad (2008).

It takes a certain something to get under the skin of a horror fan, I think. Not only have we seen a fair amount of messed up stuff, we actively seek it out. That alone usually means our expectations of "sick and twisted" are way worse than your average Joe. Our points of reference for fucked up are, well... fucked up.

This film includes a scene where a man wanks off using a disembodied uterus. There, I said it. Moving swiftly on...

When I speak about Mum & Dad, the word I keep using is "solid". It seems appropriate. There's nothing extraneous about it, everything seems to serve a purpose. At 84mins long it's a simple, stout little flick.

Lena, a quiet Polish girl, is lured from her workplace of Heathrow airport into the home of a couple known only as Mum and Dad. With the co-operation of their adopted children (read: promoted past victims) Birdie and Elbie, she is held captive and subjected to torture of just about every kind.

The viewer and Lena both, are plunged into this world. The first time we see Dad (Perry Benson, someone who most Brits view as anything but threatening in his roles) he's straight from dismembering a victim; covered in blood, panting and agitated he looks ready to destroy Lena in at least three ways. Then in comes Mum, a soothing voice and apparent good cop to his bad. Of course, it transpires that she is just a colder more controlled kind of insane.

The foursome function as a family unit would, but with some shocking tweaks to the traditional. As they eat breakfast in the kitchen, a porn film plays noisily in the background; household chores include disposing of entrails and burning the clothes of victims. In moments of anger Dad shouts phrases one might hear from an irate parent ("When you live under my roof you'll abide by my rules!" etc) but they have far more disturbing consequences than a simple grounding.

Once Lena is in the house, this is where the story plays out, with only frustrating glimpses of the oblivious outside world. She attempts to escape and is punished multiple times, and one of the more alarming involving her being shut in a suitcase and beaten with a mallet.

Time after time she tries and fails. She discovers an atrocity in the attic and a fellow hostage she can't save in another room. Her spirit is still there, but it is dwindling. As she grows thinner and more bruised, we are forced to wonder if she might just give up and accept her place in this perverse household.

Her very last bid for freedom is like the film itself: bloody and intelligently paced. I didn't feel able to guess with any confidence how this story would conclude and I liked that.

This appears to be director Steven Sheil's biggest project to date and it shows - in a good way! Keeping things uncomplicated means keeping things strong. The narrative, characters and location all feel as well rounded as they need to be. The film has weight.

Definitely one to check out if nasty little Brit flicks are something you get a kick out of.


  1. Great review. Couldn't agree with you more. I was really impressed with this film. Perry Benson was an inspired bit of casting, the fact he's more familiar for his comedy roles just made it extra disturbing.