They f*** you up

by vpundir | June 23rd, 2008

Virtually the entire cast, in addition to the producer and director, of Mum & Dad was present at the world premier of the film at Filmhouse. The house was almost full, which in my book is another unusual happening for a movie being screened after midnight.

This film is the first Microwave feature of Film London (Microwave is a micro-budget – under £100,000 – movie project). At first this surprised me as I wouldn’t have expected their first film to be in the horror genre. But then again, they say that horror is the easiest/ safest genre to start off with, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.

Mum & Dad is the story of Lena, a Polish immigrant working at Heathrow, who, having missed the last bus home, ends up at chirpy colleague Birdie’s house for what she assumes is just a sleepover. She is promptly knocked unconsious and transported into a living hell. As it turns out, Birdie’s “parents” are no ordinary people; they are an abhorrently twisted pair, perhaps loosely based on the Wests, that unleash horror beyond poor Lena’s worst nightmares.

The rest of the movie is pretty much a carbon-copy of almost every captivity-ordeal-desperation-dash horror flick ever made. Sheil does not attempt to break any molds; there are hardly any genuine chills here. However, he does set out to shock and some of his graphic imagery may delight sickness-and-gore fans, while offending many others in the audience.

The biggest shocks, of course, come not from the graphic nature of the movie, but from the implied banality of the nasty and horrific acts in the house. In fact, the bright sparks of the movie are in the sly satire and dark humor, which have unfortunately been used sparingly; it would be nice to see more of that.

It’s great the way Sheil uses juxtaposition of banalities from everyday lives of regular families with his “special” family. It’s a closely-knit, principled household with family values, with a generous dose of gruesome thrown in. Taken out of the context of the sadistic milieu, the dialogs might seem like what you might hear in your own house.

In terms of story, the premise is interesting, but I would have been so much more interested in Birdie’s story than in Lena’s. It would still be following a formula, but the transformation of Lena into Birdie would have added quite a bit of depth and chill-factor.

The acting is mostly good. Dido Miles is efficiently chilling as Mum. Perry Benson’s Dad is an everyday familyman with some horrific quirks, although I can’t help but think that he would probably be a good addition to Simon Peggesque comedy movies. Ainsley Howard and Toby Alexander frankly don’t have all that much to do, but they are professional with what they are asked to do.

The bulk of the film rests on the slender shoulders of Olga Fedori. In the beginning, she seems to have been miscast – she is too sophisticated to be a janitor at Heathrow. And her accent is certainly more American than Polish, or what’s stereotypically associated with Polish immigrants, which would have been fine had the director not foolishly stuck to the word of the script and actually identified the accent as Polish in the film.

Thankfully, Lena enters the house of horrors within the first few minutes, and once there Olga comes into her element and shines; she has excellent physical and emotive acting capabilities and she uses them well. If she can further develop accent/ dialect imitation, she is destined to go places.

Sound leaves much to be desired – it’s simply not up to snuff for this day and age. That said, this IS a micro-budget movie, and they probably had many demands on whatever limited resources they had. I love the excellent way the traditional song Nine Hundred Miles has been used. You can check it out in the trailer.

An editorial gaffe strangely reminds me of Hitchcock’s Oscar-nominated North By Northwest. In one sequence towards the end of the movie, Eva Marie Saint’s character (Eve Kendall) is supposed to shoot someone, and takes out a gun out of her purse. As she does so, a boy, sitting in the restaurant with his back towards Eva Marie, covers his ears in anticipation of the shot though his character had no way of knowing about the impending shooting; he had obviously sat through quite a few takes. And somehow, this was the take that made it into the film.

In Mum & Dad, there is a defining moment quite early in the film when Lena is hit on the head and is knocked unconscious. Now the assailant comes from behind her, and Lena has no way of knowing what’s coming to her, but Olga flinches in anticipation just before being hit; like the boy from North By Northwest, she had probably gone through some rehearsals/ takes. Why this particular take made it, we’ll never know. They even use this same take in the trailer.

Overall, if you are a die-hard gore fan, and have nothing better to do on a Saturday night, you might want to pick up the DVD from your local store.

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