#284 -- Mum and Dad (2008)

Director: Steven Sheil
Rating: 3 / 5

Before I tell you anything of real importance about this movie, let's talk about that poster. I think it alone tells you just about everything you need to know. Those two people pictured are, of course, Mum and Dad. See how they look like the average every day couple. Mum's standing behind Dad, where he probably believes she belongs. Dad looks kind of sullen and angry, like everyone says every husband feels. It's safe to say that they appear to be a very normal married couple. But in the background there, you can see a severed head on a shelf, so I guess they're actually not quite normal. The tagline is "They're dying to have you over," which I think is kind of incorrect. They're not dying at all, but you will if you don't follow their rules. To me, at the very core of their relationship, Mum and Dad seem like the stereotypical 1950s couple. Dad's the bread winner, and Mum is the one who keeps the house in order. He wants to make sure she's happy, and she's there to calm him down whenever he gets a little bit too angry. They seem like they're in love, and I'm sure it would have been impossible for either of them to find someone else to satiate their needs, so they're actually quite a perfect couple. Aside from the craziness, of course.

The story centers on Lena, a young Polish girl working as a cleaner at an airport in London. She's new, and she makes it clear that she doesn't really have anyone that she can count on. She says that she and her parents don't get along, and she is distant from her siblings. I'm not even sure that her family lives nearby, so it's safe to say that no one would miss her if she disappeared. She's a sweet and smart girl, and she's pretty, so of course everyone should want her. She meets two other employees at the airport, Birdie and her brother Elbie. Birdie seems cheery and nice, even though she's quick to steal things she finds lying around. Elbie doesn't speak at all, but he never seems weird. He's just a shy guy (maybe...), and it's obvious to me that he has a good heart. After a night of working together, Birdie invites Lena over for drinks, but Lena declines stating that she has some things she has to do and that she'll try to go the next day. Birdie obviously isn't happy about this. Not long after that, a few things happen that cause Lena to miss her bus home. It isn't anything major; Birdie says that she forgot her phone and asks Lena to go back inside and help her look for it. I had the feeling, though, that Birdie had her phone all along, and that she only wanted to make Lena miss the bus. So when the bus does, indeed, leave without her, Birdie invites Lena to come stay with them for the night, so she'll at least have somewhere to sleep. Left with no other options, she accepts. Once she arrives at their home, it becomes clear pretty quickly that something isn't right. Birdie and Elbie disappear immediately, leaving Lena all alone in the kitchen. She's conked on the  head, knocked out, given a drug that leaves her unable to speak, and tied up in a dirty room.

Mum and Dad only have one child of their own, an apparently mentally retarded girl they keep tied up in an upstairs bedroom. The rest of their "children" are people they abducted. Birdie and Elbie are among those, but they were able to become "a part of the family." Dad often tells Lena that if she follows the rules, she will be okay, so we can assume that's what Birdie and Elbie did: they went through unspeakable amounts of torture and never misbehaved. And now, they help Mum and Dad capture new children, and they're free to come and go as they please. Lena is tied up and has designs cut into her skin. Once, she is locked into a suitcase and beaten with a wooden mallet. But these are not the acts of both parents' lust for blood. Mum is the one who enjoys torture, and she simply calls it "playing with her children." Dad doesn't even like them, it seems, and he only tolerates them for Mum's sake. But when they misbehave, he is there to deal out the punishment. Dad's the disciplinary figure, while Mum is the caring maternal figure who takes care of the family.

For the most part, they're a normal family. The have family dinners around the table, all the children have their own set of chores to do, and they even celebrate Christmas (with gifts like knives and naughty magazines). But instead of the traditional Christmas decorations, they've got bodies nailed to the walls. And instead of traditional family television, they watch porn while they're having their family meals. Oh, and sex is not kept a secret from the children, as they are invited to watch as Dad fucks a chunk of raw meat that most certainly belonged to a former "child."

Lena learns very quickly that she'll have to suck it up and take whatever they throw at her if she wants to survive; because if she misbehaves too much, she'll end up like the other chopped-up body parts that Elbie is seen incinerating in the back yard. She does an okay job of it at first, but there's only so much torture a person can take, and she soon starts fighting back. It becomes clear that if she doesn't escape soon, she'll be dead meat.

Mum and Dad definitely isn't a movie for everyone. Some would call it disgusting and disturbing, which it is. But as a horror fan, it's definitely not the worst case of abuse/torture that I've seen. I think the real torture is having to be stuck in that house with them, rather than the actual things that are being done to Lena; it is the knowledge that she'll either have to escape or die, and dying certainly seemed easier. There was one scene that I found particularly disturbing, but other than that, it's really not all that bad. It is fairly easy to enjoy, with characters that are easy to relate to, hate, and root for. It will keep you engaged through most of it, and it'll keep you wondering what they'll do next. I really enjoyed it up until the end, which I found was too abrupt and not very difficult. It spent the entire movie establishing the difficulty of escape, but then turned around and made the escape easy. There wasn't enough struggle or consequence; there wasn't enough fighting back or injury for me to really believe that Lena had a tough go of it. It left me wondering why she wasn't able to do it sooner. But other than the quick ending, I'd say it's definitely a movie that's worth seeing. It's not boring, it doesn't feel rushed or forced, and most importantly...the story isn't completely stupid.

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