“Mum & Dad” reps a largely comic spin on the currently popular torture-porn genre, yielding mixed results. Tale of a femme who is kidnapped and tormented by a crazy family living near London Heathrow Airport self-consciously evokes “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and its many knockoffs and creepy kin. Despite droll moments and impressive production values for an allegedly tiny ($200,000) budget, an extra idea or two would have made this a little bit better than just OK. Horror fans should accept pic into the family, especially on ancillary, but crossover adoption looks less likely.
Pretty Polish cleaner Lena (Olga Fedori) accepts an invitation to crash at the home of chatty colleague Birdie (Ainsley Howard), only to discover that Birdie’s Mum (Dido Miles) and Dad (Perry Benson) are total psychos who get their kicks from torturing and murdering imprisoned victims. Lena is chained to a bed, injected with drugs to keep her still and quiet, and ritually sliced with scalpels by Mum, who warns Lena that Dad will do far worse.
The only way to survive is to go along with their twisted parody of family life, as unofficially adopted daughter Birdie and her mute “brother,” Elbie (Toby Alexander), have done. Cue a lot of heavy-handed irony as the classic/cliche phrases of family life (“Look at what you’ve made me do!”) are repeatedly trotted out while Mum or Dad mete out horrific harm, a joke that gets a little wearisome even over the pic’s short haul. Slightly more amusing, at least for Brit auds, is the revelation as to why so many bags go missing from Heathrow.
Although “Texas Chainsaw” and the real-life shenanigans of mass murderers Fred and Rosemary West are obvious touchstones, “Mum & Dad” also recalls such horror-comedies as “Eating Raoul,” “Parents” or even John Waters’ “Serial Mom,” but with somewhat less wit. Debutant helmer Steven Sheil attempts to have it both ways by veering into outright drama in the last reels, but by then, it’s all gotten too silly to be properly scary. Auds not inured to hardcore blood and guts will feel duly repulsed, but hardened fans who crave extremes may find this pallid compared to the likes of the “Hostel” and “Saw” movies.
Kudos are still due to the cast, most of them familiar TV faces, for putting it all across with conviction and not hamming it up too hard. Sleek-haired Fedori, who hardly says a word after 20 minutes, shines in particular and is one to watch out for in future productions.
Sound design by Ben Cross and Tom Hutchings effectively adds the requisite spooky atmosphere, and the hard-edged look of pic’s HD lensing enhances rather than detracts from the mood.