Movie Review: Parents (1989)

Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews

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In 1988, a great American poet, who went by the alias The Fresh Prince, spoke of strained parental relationships in his poignant hit smash, ”Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  Well, if he thought his mother buying him unfashionable clothes was detrimental to his well-being, imagine how he’d feel if he was little Bryan Madorsky (Michael Laemie).  Bryan is far from trendy, but his problems extend far beyond fashion troubles; Bryan has mental health problems, with paranoia stemming from fear of his cannibal parents.

The 50’s was a time of the suburban American portrait family: the man was the breadwinner, whose wife would pack his lunch. kiss him on the cheek and send him off to work with his briefcase intact.  The wife on the other hand would stay at home, do the housework and prepare scrumptious meals for the family.  The kids went to school, got good grades and absorbed life advice from Paw; and if it was a boy the father would call him ”champ” or ”slugger” as they played catch in the yard.  You know the scenario:  Bob Balaban’s Parents certainly does; this is a satire of the perceived perfect family which also plays on childhood suspicions of their parents doing unspeakable things after they put them to bed at night.  In reality, they were usually watching late night television or, to quote the Fresh Prince again. ”Gettin’ Jiggy With It.”  However, as kids we all suspected that our parents were flesh eating cannibals; in Parents it might be more than the overworking’s of a child’s imagination.

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Parents sits somewhere amidst a black comedy, a satire of suburban America and a Lynchian sprinkled horror; the tonal balance is hazy, never fully embracing each genre in its entirety.  However, it never comes across as uneven; by lingering on the fence of each, Parents makes you feel like you’re witnessing a child’s delusions and nightmares unfold through the eyes of the child himself.

Randy Quaid, long before he was playing Amish bowlers in Farrelly Brothers comedies, is excellent as the father.  On the surface he looks like the perfect stereotypical breadwinner; but from the get-go it’s apparent he’s harbouring something sinister underneath his shirt and tie.  Mary Beth Hurt as Billy’s mother is just as effective; she’s more silent and knows her role in the patriarchal system of the household.  But she does showcase a huge appetite for meat.

Parents is a strange movie; as a horror comedy it’s not scary or funny enough, but the way it blends aspects of each to create an oddity is magnificent.  A forgotten gem that deserves some more recognition, this cannibal caper is one tasty, exotic dish.  9/10

Directed By:

Bob Balaban

Written By:

Christopher Hawthorne

Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis, Michael Laemie

Genre:

Horror, Comedy, Drama

Running Time:

81 min

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