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Review: A wicked premise and unhinged Nicolas Cage release submerged parental horrors in ‘Mom and Dad’

Nicolas Cage in the movie "Mom and Dad."
(Momentum Pictures)

Early in Brian Taylor’s edgy horror-comedy “Mom and Dad,” snarling suburbanite Brent Ryan descends on his shrieking son Josh, while playing a game of “tickle monster.” The scene illustrates what “Mom and Dad” has going for it: a gleefully unhinged Nicolas Cage performance, and an understanding that the line between parental affection and violent hostility is thin.

Taylor makes his solo debut as a writer-director, bringing the same anything-goes style that marked his long partnership with Mark Neveldine (on films like “Crank”). Frenetic pacing and darkly comic sight gags add pungent flavor to Taylor’s story, which imagines what’d happen if a mass infection caused parents to murder their offspring.

Selma Blair plays Kendall Ryan, the mother of petulant teen Carly (Anne Winters) and mischievous brat Josh (Zackary Arthur). Once Kendall and Brent catch the bug, “Mom and Dad” becomes like a sick version of “Home Alone,” with multiple generations of the Ryan family shooting and stabbing each other.

The comic incongruity of doting parents stalking children becomes less funny over time; and often it feels like Taylor hasn’t thought through the particulars of his premise, or the places he could’ve taken it.

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But there’s something poignant about the many scenes of Kendall and Brent recalling the sexy, rebellious, vital people they used to be. The ultimate point of “Mom and Dad” is that it doesn’t take a rage virus to make a middle-aged man want to put on his old Misfits T-shirt and smash something.

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‘Mom and Dad’

Rating: R, for disturbing horror violence, language throughout, some sexual content/nudity and teen drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

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Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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