Mum and Dad

Certificate: 18
Running time: 84 mins
Director: Steven Sheil
Starring: Perry Benson, Dido Miles, Olga Fedori, Ainsley Howard
Genre: Horror
Country: UK

Ok so it’s been a while since we’ve managed to squeeze out a review and though we are still out in the cold when it comes to 21st century communicative technology we’ve managed to find a way of bringing you home to see Mum and Dad.

When Polisher cleaner Lena (Fedori) befriends the ever-talking Birdie on shift at London’s Heathrow Airport the most she thought she was in store for was a pal that talks more than she could possibly breath.  But when Lena misses her last bus home and is offered a ride home by Birdie what begins is the slow and gruesome adoption process of a deranged family.

The set-up is nothing ground breaking, it is essentially a stranger stranded in a strange land tale and is very much the cornerstone of horror cinema ever since Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and has come back into vogue in recent years with directors Tom Six (The Human Centipede [First Sequence]) and Greg McLean (Wolf Creek).  What is good about writer/director Steven Sheil’s handling of the concept is how straightforward and uncomplicated his narrative development is.  The set-up time is short, there’s no great attempt at characterisation prior to the imprisonment which can be something of a risk (as why should we care) but through the camera’s faithful relationship to Lena we learn about the type of character she can be, the strength she has to deal with the new surroundings she has found herself in.  Sheil’s showcases the gore and brutality of life with Mum and Dad free of quirk, style or gimmick; it’s also free of the “shock for shock’s sake” (see Grotesque or Slaughtered Vomit Dolls) but you get a real sense how brutal life can be and it’s a refreshing frankness that allows the horror speak for itself.

Olga Fedori is the strong silent lead and she carries the emotional journey of the narrative extremely well.  Her style of performance, and Sheil’s direction of her, is an interesting one.  All too often the “torture flick” is one of heavy blood, heavy screaming with only the physically powerful and dominant surviving but Fedori plays the character with the kind of grace and poise that would not be out of place in Black Swan.  Perry Benson (as Dad) gives a commanding, if somewhat one of limited range.  He’s an actor who has a real brooding menace one moment and a soft cuddliness the next.  His presence is the kind of persona that Six was going for with Martin (The Human Centipede [Full Sequence]) but with a lot more complexity and the interesting twist of a reasonably attractive wife who is no doubt attracted to him because of their duel psychopathic tendencies.  This brings us nicely along to Dido Miles (Mum).  As a singer I can not relate but in this role she truly excels.  The highest possible praise being that as the credits roll closing the piece you will know someone who is looking out to see which character was played by Dido such is her transformation.  The favourite child spot is reserved for Ainsley Howard (Birdie).  Her performance has a level of innocence to it, even though she knows exactly what she is doing throughout.  Her deepest character flaws in the hands of this skilful actress are raised to the highest attributes and the hints of sexual relations with her adoptive family is handled incredibly sensitively.

It’s not all good news though.  Mum and Dad, at the end of the day, is a by the book "taken captive" horror movie that all too often treads down the expected path of Inside or Hostel without the nastiness or teeth to back it up.  Because of this you are never really in any doubt where the film is going and what the conclusion will be.  It also doesn’t really have a second gear as each scene slowly creeps into the other before ultimately trying to sprint towards the finish line.  Looking through the filmography of those involved it seems that many of the performers knew one another prior to the movie thanks to a little BBC show and perhaps it’s that prior familiarity that’s prevented any real bite from being delivered on screen.  Impressive performances, strongly directed, and with a healthy dose of atmosphere but unfortunately a little sluggish and too easily read.


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