Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport and get your shots, because this week we’re heading to…
I get flack sometimes for including British movies under a foreign film heading due to the fact that they’re still in English. This would make sense if the column specified foreign language, but since it doesn’t I’m going to continue including English language films produced in a country more than 3000 miles away. Besides, if I stopped covering British films you may have gone your entire life without seeing the image above. We’ll get to what exactly it is in a minute…
Lena (Olga Fedori) is a Polish immigrant who makes a meager living cleaning toilet stalls in London’s Heathrow Airport. She hopes to eventually afford to move other members of her family in with her, but for now she’s alone in the city until she meets Birdie (Ainsley Howard) and Elbie (Toby Alexander), two of her late shift co-workers. The pair strike up a conversation with Lena and eventually persuade her to swing by their house just a short walk from the airport. They conveniently neglect to mention that their parents (Dido Miles & Perry Benson) are a couple of bloodthirsty, sex-crazed, and sadistic people in search of a new daughter. Or a new toy. Or a new meal. It’s really up to Lena which category she’ll fall under.
Mum & Dad is a recent entry into the unfortunately named torture-porn genre. The label came about after the success of the Saw and Hostel films opened the doors to a flood of hopeful imitators in search of a quick buck and hardcore credibility. Pain and suffering are the hallmarks of these films as much of their running times consist of an innocent victim under the control of a sadistic madman. The irony is that while Saw officially (but not technically) started the genre that series of films is actually the weakest of the lot. They favor style and twists over intensity and real terror… which is also what gives them the commercial edge over their imitators. Lower budget films like Mum & Dad and The Girl Next Door are forced to rely on dread, brutality, and disgust to keep viewers interested.
Writer/director Steven Sheil’s Mum & Dad appears to have all three of those characteristics to spare. The interior of the house alternates between bright and dark, normal and Guignol-ish, and the inhabitants do the same. The quartet acts fine and pleasant around the sunny breakfast table (even with porn playing in the background and intestines accidentally spilling on the floor), but any of them can and will turn vicious and nasty in a heartbeat. Beatings and abuse are around every corner, including one scene that finds Lena tossed in a suitcase and pummeled with a mallet. As many abuse scenes as there are, though, they’re outnumbered by shots of airplanes flying across the screen. Yes, they’re near an airport, but it’s no exaggeration to say half of the movie is airplanes. Okay, that was an exaggeration, but goddamn there are around twenty shots that do nothing but pad the film’s short running time.
The bulk of the film consists of Lena being slapped around, sliced up with a razor or knitting needle, drugged, forced to kiss decapitated heads, and worst of all, massaging and kissing one disgusting pair of feet. It’s over the top at times and unconvincing in several places as well. Lena has a couple choice opportunities to escape/fight back including one at the table with forks and knives at her disposal but ignores them all. And this is after she’s already seen Dad kill a woman and use a chunk of flesh as a masturbatory aid-cum-come receptacle (top photo). You wouldn’t stab this portly bastard in the eye the second you had the chance? Would Birdie and Elbie, also kidnapped immigrants, already be enmeshed so deeply into this abhorrent lifestyle? Lena is about twenty years-old so it’s assumed the other two were taken as teens, and Birdie still has a strong Irish accent so she wasn’t taken as a child.
Dramatic criticisms aside, the movie looks fantastic for it’s reported 100,000 pound budget. The house itself is a claustrophobic nightmare, the color contrasts from room to room are disorienting, and most of the gore effects are pleasantly grotesque (the exception being the highly unconvincing torso hanging on the wall). The actors are also fine across the board, but the real stand out is Benson. For a short and chubby comedian, Benson truly brings his utterly sociopathic bully to terrifying life. He falters a bit towards the end when the character takes one step too many across the crazy line, but until then he succeeds at creating the film’s only true terror. The rest of the family (and the overall situation itself) is simply too unbelievable and cartoonish. Fans of the genre should check it out to see a British take on the subject, and it’s far more “entertaining” than the bleak and almost nihilistic The Girl Next Door, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of your Netflix queue.
Mum & Dad releases May 5th on DVD. Check out the trailer below.
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