However, in moving to a new school, the first thing young Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky) tells his new class is how to boil a cat alive… so he’s making friends fast(!) Well, he just can’t bond with anyone there, except the other new entrant in his class, Sheila (Juno Mills-Cockell).
He begins to suspect his parents aren’t quite what everything thinks they are, i.e. cannibals. So far, all he’s got to base it on is nightmares where very grisly things happen, including a severed hand whirling about in the sink’s garbage disposal unit. Well, at least he thinks they might be nightmares…
Either way, there’s a nice moment where you realise you didn’t immediately spot the blood oozing down from the top of a particular kitchen appliance, which is a little reminiscent of The Shining.
However, all the gross things about eating dead people isn’t the most disgusting thing about this film – THAT comes when Michael’s laying in bed, and his mum comes in, sees one of his fingernails needs a trim, and she puts it in his mouth and bites it. I mean, it’s bad enough when you see anyone do that to their own fingernails, but to someone else’s?!! It’s fucking disgusting!!!
The best scenes come between young Bryan, together with Randy Quaid as his father, Nick, along with great support from Mary Beth Hurt as his mother, Lily, the aforementioned Juno as his new friend, and there’s sharp direction from Bob Balaban to add to the brooding tension. Just going back to Ms Hurt, and with her hairdo, she looks almost the spitting image of Keeley Hawes in the World War II drama Traitors, although that could partly be down to the matching hairdos.
Parents came out a year before Brian Yuzna’s Society, and while there’s less gore in this (well, there’s a fair bit at times, but then few things beat Society), I do get a lot of the same sense of that same movie’s tension. It’s also one of the best performances I’ve seen from Randy Quaid, along with 1973’s The Last Detail when he starred opposite Jack Nicholson and the late Otis Young, and if you haven’t seen it, you really should. It does make you wonder how he lost his way from the big screen, especially after such a memorable performance as oddball Russell Casse in Independence Day, but after around 2006, he just dropped off the movie radar. According to Wikipedia, he was banned from the Actors’ Equity Association from reasons he disputes.
As for the visuals, yes, the picture looks a bit grainy*, but this will be down to the fact it was shot on 35mm, and on a small budget, and it’s not the type of movie that would’ve been expected to get the Special Edition treatment on any format, so many years down the line. On the plus side, it’s set in 1954 so any slight grain actually adds to the look which it’s going for.
(*moreso during the opening credits which would be the start of the original reel, and is the part which always seems to come off worst for movies shot on film. A few minutes in and things are a lot better, and most people wouldn’t notice anyway)
What I also noted is that, early on, the film uses a split-screen dual-focus effect that you’d normally expect from Brian De Palma, with Michael in the foreground on the left, as the first main scene begins, with his parents in the background on the right. In the extras, reference is made instead to Citizen Kane. Okay, that was a good film, too, but it’s certainly not the best one ever made 😉
Audio-wise, Parents just has a Dolby Surround soundtrack, rather than the modern 5.1, 7.1 or more, but there’s still a number of nice effects of the audio booming out and creating a fantastic soundscape all around you.
There’s a great stack of extras which are as follows:
- Leftovers To Be (16:48): Screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne gives his thoughts on making the film including the effect it had on young LGBT children who came up to him after they’d seen it, and thanked him for ‘making a movie about their life’, which is not what he was expecting.
- Mother’s Day with Mary Beth Hurt (14:29): A similar style of interview, and this time, it’s amusing when Ms Hurt says she watched the film again just before doing this interview and how she watched it from the point of view of the boy, and how grossed out she was by the film.
- Inside Out (13:58): A great insight into how the film was shot from Director of Photography Robin Vidgeon, who also worked on the incredible Hellraiser. I like how he says the way to light a set is to NOT make it look like it has been lit, i.e. so it’s natural-looking.
- Vintage Tastes (9:26): An interview with Decorative Consultant Yolanda Cuomo.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:33): “His parents think Michael’s problems are in his head. But Michael knows it’s on his plate!”
That pretty much sums it up 😀
- Radio Spots (1:42): Two of them – one for 60 seconds, and one for 30 seconds, both with a musical intro and outro. The second is just a shorter version of the first.
- Stills Gallery (4:52): Lots of pics! (set to a couple of pieces of music from the film)
- Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview: Composer Jonathan Elias interviewed by Michael Felsher from Red Shirt Pictures.
- Audio Commentary: with director Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef.
The menu features clips from the film set to a short piece of Perez Prado’s Cerezo Rosa (aka Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White), there are a bog-standard 12 chapters, and subtitles are in English only.
Parents: Vestron Collector’s Series is released tomorrow on Blu-ray.
Running time: 82 minutes
Released: February 25th 2019
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: English DD 2.0 (Dolby Surround)
Subtitles: English SDH
Format: 1.85:1 (35mm)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Bob Balaban
Producer: Bonnie Palef
Screenplay: Christopher Hawthorne
Music: Jonathan Elias
Nick Laemle: Randy Quaid
Lily Laemle: Mary Beth Hurt
Millie Dew: Sandy Dennis
Michael Laemle: Bryan Madorsky
Sheila Zellner: Juno Mills-Cockell
Miss Baxter: Kathryn Grody
Mrs. Zellner: Deborah Rush
Mr. Zellner: Graham Jarvis
Grandmother: Helen Carscallen
Grandfather: Warren Van Evera
Lab Attendant: Wayne Robson
Little Boy: Uriel Byfield
Little Girl: Mariah Balaban
Announcer: Larry Palef
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.