Just in time for Mother’s Day comes this low-budget British shocker going straight to DVD in the U.S. after initial UK theatrical run in December. Story of a young Polish girl caught up in the grisly antics of a family of serial killers delivers gross-out thrills in predictable fashion, so for slasher fans Mum And Dad fills the bill and should rake in the bucks in its ancillary afterlife. For the squeamish it’s a long sit.
A success at Slamdance, this efficient if familiar horror item is based, however loosely, on the real-life serial killers Fred and Rosemary West, but writer/director Steven Sheil puts his own Brit stamp on the package making it all seem primarily the stuff of fiction.
Story revolves around Lena (Olga Fedori), a pretty polish immigrant working at Heathrow who misses the last bus one night and reluctantly (and unwisely as it turns out) accepts an invitation from seemingly friendly co-workers Birdie (Ainsley Howard) and her brother Elbie (Toby Alexander) to stay at their parents nearby house. Moments after she arrives she’s knocked out, only to awaken later surrounded by squalor and in ear shot of some agonizing screaming going on behind closed doors. It’s only the beginning as she is soon introduced to Mum (Dido Miles) and Dad (Perry Benson), a blood soaked, overweight killer who enjoys masturbating with freshly excised human organs and watching porn at the breakfast table. Lena is told she belongs to them now. They repeat the phrase “are you mommie’s little girl?” over and over for effect and she realizes she has stumbled on to some sort of torture palace and must fight for her life to get out.
Thought it obviously has movies like Saw and Hostel for inspiration, Mum & Dad is surprisingly restrained in terms of the demonstrations of graphic horror. This isn’t your father’s torture porn, but rather a sickly psychological study of the ultimate dysfunctional family. As the story goes on reasons for their killing spree become abundantly clear and the film follows the well-worn path of the bloody damsel in distress terror rides.
Performances are all top grade for this sort of thing, with Benson particularly creepy and Dido Miles matching him. Fedori doesn’t say much but knows how to translate fear, and later a fierce survival instinct, through her eyes and movements. Newcomer Howard, as the manipulative Birdie, is perfect, while Alexander expertly channels Norman Bates and other psychos of that ilk.
English life has never looked more unappealing and that seems to be the point, especially with the Christmas celebration that dominates the last part of this particular blood fest, which, with a little luck, could make it a cult item in the genre.
Cast: Perry Benson, Dido Miles, Olga Fedori, Toby Alexander and Ainsley Howard
Director/Screenwriter: Steven Sheil
Producer: Lisa Trnovski
Running time: 84 min
Release Date: May 5, 2009 (on DVD)