Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Lance Henriksen
Director: Brian Taylor
Writer/director Brian Taylor brought us Crank (2006) and Gamer (2009), which in some ways tells you what to expect here: an amusing and violent commentary on modern day social troubles that’s also a fun ride.
In this film, a family lives in modern, perfect suburbia. But what looks perfect from the outside, is rotten on the inside. Nic Cage is the Dad who brings home the bacon, but thinks back to days when he wasn’t tied to his desk and lived a wild, sexy life. Selma Blair is Mom, a woman obsessed with keeping her figure and desperate to adhere to her idea of family, even though she’s stifling her two kids. Anne Winters is their teenage daughter, who speaks up about the hypocrisy, and steals money from her moms purse for drugs. The stage is really clearly set in the opening of the film: the teenagers are spoiled, self obsessed brats, and their parents hate them for being young, being beautiful and for having a life when they don’t.
And then, parents start mysteriously attacking and killing their children.
What is really fun about this film is that everyone is pretty awful. Parents are hateful and jealous towards their children. But their children are also pretty awful too. You are OK if they all die, really. But at the same time, you care enough that you want to see how they survive and how it all pans out. (Actually, in fairness, the teenage daughters boyfriend, played by Robert T Cunningham, is a nice guy. A kid who studies hard and who takes care of his alcoholic Dad, and he also steps in to rescue her every five minutes)
And of course, while the concept of this film is really interesting, and the way it comments on social trends is really on point, the real draw of this film is Nic Cage and his ability to be bat shit crazy. I love a Nic Cage freak out. Partly because he has the ability to be such an incredible dramatic actor too, and partly because I’m fascinated by an actor that has built himself a pyramid tomb for when he passes and lives in a New Orleans house that used to be home to a serial killer and is famously haunted. This is the perfect film for an actor who does crazy so well, and he gets to do some wonderful batshit stuff. And yet, it never goes too far. Well, I mean, as “too far” as you know Cage can take it.
A quick note about the kids in this film: they are really overshadowed by the the actors playing their parents. I get the impression that it’s meant to be like that. The son, who is quite young, is about as whiny and annoying as kids are in all horror films. The teenage daughter is only competent at keeping them safe until her boyfriend is in the room, then she immediately is useless and needs a man to rescue her. Which he does, even though she tends to forget him if he’s not right in front of her and even though he takes a beating that would kill any normal person three times over. Perhaps the point is really that we don’t mind them being menaced too much.
I really enjoyed this film, it’s often funny, it’s very dark, it’s brutal, and it has a great concept that’s well realised. I really liked the way it’s edited as well, it feels like an MTV movie or something, it’s really stylish. Blair and Cage are wonderful as people who are essentially kind of awful and shallow, and yet relatable, right up until they start to turn murderous. And there’s even a small turn from Lance Henriksen, who in my book is always a welcome addition.
See It If: you’ve ever wished you were young again or wondered if your parents secretly hate you. It’s comedy horror and it’s insanely fun.