Tag Archives: 2008

Mum & Dad (2008)

The movie world is made up of four different kinds of families: the normal families (much less common than the latter varieties, and debatable, as no family is totally normal), offbeat families, and crazy families, for starters. Then there’s the titular Mum & Dadclan, which brings us to the scariest and most dangerous variety, umpteen steps past crazy, and reveling in their own perversion.

It’s hard to even call them family, as such. Only one child, the severely brain-damaged Angela (Miciah Dring), is their own. The others are kidnapped additions brainwashed into adhering to the family’s rules. These are vindictive Birdie (Ainsley Howard) and her silent “brother,” Elby (Toby Alexander). It kind of reminds me of the 1970 horror film Girly, in which “new friends” are brought forcibly into a family of depraved Brits, If Girly were applied with the visceral brutality of a blunt hammer.

The newest addition is quiet Polish immigrant Lena (Olga Fedori), who meets the loquacious Birdie at the airport where they both clean. Lena isn’t stupid; she’s just awfully polite — too polite to follow her instincts. When Birdie and Elby “accidentally”  make Lena miss her bus, she goes home with them, against her own better judgment.

Enter “Mum and Dad” (Dido Miles and Perry Benson). Mum is a manipulative, slick sexual deviant. Dad is also a deviant, who hits Lena over the head and rapes raw meat in front of his family (the camera then closes in on the cum in the meat *gags*). It’s the kind of family relatively normal people stay away from, and Lena is not only determined to survive, but to escape.

To remain free of all pretenses, I will just call a spade a spade — this is a torture flick, competently executed, but mostly devoid of any higher purpose, deeper meaning, or pathos. It does sport, however, an intense and cleverly executed ending and decent acting (best from Dido Miles, who plays a soft-spoken psychopath so well). As a note to people who, like myself, can stomach graphic violence but have trouble with sexual assault, there are no rape scenes in this film, although sexual perversion is prevalent.

Lena is a likable heroine, and although she certainly doesn’t bring about fascination, the viewer will want to see her through. The film is primarily set in the home of the killers, with shots of airplanes soaring overhead, conveying a feeling of distance and one’s desperate need of rescue going unnoticed. Now that I have called a spade a spade, I recommend Mum & Dad to extreme horror buffs and those with (very) strong stomachs.

Step Brothers (2008)

stepbrothers

Okay. If you are planning to rent this film because you like Will Ferrell, or because you laughed (as I did) at his intellectual masterpiece Land of the Lost… stop and think for a minute, a practice this film ignored completely. Emotionally underdeveloped males are not funny.

Vindictive man-child squabbling is not funny. Middle aged men too lazy and pathetic to get off of their behinds and get jobs, only feed off of their long-suffering parents with the will and determination of parasites… not funny. Even if one of them is played by Will Ferrell, the humor is still pretty nonexistent.

Step Brothers, an uneasy blend of Paul Blart – Mall Cop and Chuck & Buck, is the kind of throwaway film people might awkwardly refer to as “cute” (as in “was it a good movie? it was… cute.”) The trouble is, it is far too resolute in it’s crudity to pass as such.

It mistakes winces for laughs and hammers its content ferociously into the viewer’s face, hoping that its gall will earn some kind of respect. It’s not even or satirical enough to pass as dark humor. As a feel-good raunchy comedy, it misses its mark completely, despite some ‘ah gee’ moments near the end where relationships are salvaged and the imbeciles are rewarded for their actions.

The premise runs like this – two older people Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) meet at a science convention, bond, and are in each other’s pants within the next five minutes. They put their clothes on, straighten up and get married. Nancy and Robert would like nothing more than to take Robert’s boat and embark on an indefinite vacation.

The trouble arises with their two sons, Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Reilly), middle-aged slackers who live at home and don’t take well to the courtship.The two of them spend the film masturbating, eating junk food,  being beaten by children, beating children, and flaunting foul language like a college degree. Their idiocy is almost redeemed by the introduction of Brennan’s successful brother, Derek, who is more deplorable than they are. But it’s tough competition.

One both rubs his testicles on a drum set and is forced to lick a mound of dog feces, all in the same film. If you are interested in seeing Will Ferrell’s balls, maybe you should rent and enjoy this movie. If not…. maybe not. They should probably be marked as Will Ferrell = Brennan and John C. Reilly = Dale, since there is no personal variation between them. They exist as characters to disgust and half-heartedly amuse.

Although Richard Jenkins, playing in my recent reviewed film Burn After Reading and receiving an Oscar nomination for The Visitor (bought but not seen) has participated in many of the Farrelly’s films, I had no idea he could sink this low. He’s the only character with a working brain in the film (as his wife smiles and says “I think they’re bonding,” he responds, “I don’t like this.”)

However, for this character to work, one would need a director with a apparently functional brain. At an afterwords at the credits, when Brennan and Dale face their grade school-sized bullies, one punches a child repeatedly, his head bobbing back and forth like a rag doll. That’s the whole trouble with Step Brothers – it has no understanding of what’s funny and what isn’t. Equipped with this bumbling ignorance, it shamelessly hits all the wrong notes

Let the Right One In (2008)


It’s no secret that “Let the Right One In” is my second favorite movie of all time, and was, in my opinion, in no need of a remake. The experience of watching this movie is akin to that of reading a great book — afterwards you want to recommend it to everyone, in hopes that they will feel the way you did watching it for the first time.

Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), an unhappy twelve-year-old boy, is bullied by his peers and fantasizes about making them pay, though for the time being the violence stays within the confines of his imagination. While outside his apartment complex at night, he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a strange twelve-year-old who offers him, for the first time, a chance to dream of a different life.

Eli is not like other girls. She goes outside into the bitter Swedish winter wearing no shoes. Occasionally she smells like a putrid corpse. Animalistic growls emanate from her gut. But she floors Oskar with her concern for him and her insistence that he must fight back, no matter what the cost.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, Eli is a vampire, which doesn’t stand by itself as a big spoiler, as it is alluded to in the first twenty-or-so minutes. Eli is not twelve, but rather thousands of years old, and her intentions toward lovelorn, nerdy Oskar are ambiguous throughout.

This is a extraordinarily well-shot film — the snowy, coldly beautiful backdrop is the perfect setting to tell this story, and the cinematography is gorgeous without being showy or pretentious. It is the kind of story that makes you fall in love with its characters. It doesn’t matter if Eli is a vampire or a zombie or even a robot — she is an undeniably real presence, and you root for her as she carries out what must be done.

Lina Leandersson is surprisingly good and carries most of the acting duties on her small, vampiric shoulders. Kåre Hedebrant is a little underwhelming at times but still makes a decent effort, and acts much better than Daniel Buttcliffe is the early HP years. He pulls off the mix of darkness and pain in Oskar’s heart combined with his ultimate naivete.

There’s a lot of symbolism in the second half of the movie (Oskar closing the doors of his toy cars, anybody?) which you may not catch if you are overly literal-minded or are not paying attention. The film never lets us forget the suffering of Eli’s victims, including Lacke, a local drunk she ensnares with a nasty trick and makes a snack out of.

The strength of “Let the Right One In” is that it cares as much about its characters as its blood and special effects. The small bit of controversy it earned with its content involving children is unfounded, and should not deter you from watching what is most certainly one of the all-time greats in modern horror.