Steven Sheil’s 2008 British horror MUM & DAD – shot in seventeen days, on a micro-budget of only £100,000 – stands up as one of the best British horrors in recent years. Not since THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE have we seen a family this insane.
When young Polish airport worker Lena is stranded at work after missing her bus, she goes home with a friendly co-worker Birdie, who lives close by with her adoptive parents. As soon as Lena sets foot in Birdie’s home, her nightmare begins. She is coshed over the head and injected in the throat, so when she wakes up chained to a bed, she can’t scream for help. A woman tells her ‘I’m Mum; he’s Dad; you live with us now.’ Mum and Dad are no ordinary parents: Dad is a psychopathic serial killer, who gets his kicks from masturbating into the flesh he’s hacked from his victims in a very uncomfortable-to-watch scene. Mum is a seemingly gentile woman, but has a predilection for torturing her ‘children’.
It is made very clear to Lena, that she is now a ‘mummy’s girl’ and as such she should keep mum happy, or suffer dad’s consequences. From here on in, we are on a knife edge as we watch poor Lena endure horrendous acts of torture; we want her to escape, but we know if she gets caught trying she’ll suffer, and we won’t be able to stop ourselves from watching.
Steven Sheil has done a brilliant job of creating this bizarre, macabre, family who appear completely normal to the outside world. That’s the disturbing thing about this film: in many ways they are your average family, and some scenes play out almost like a soap opera. There’s an adoptive son, who is encouraged to walk in his Dad’s rather troubling footsteps, and Birdie is showing signs of wanting to be like Mum. They are a close knit family who in a very, very strange way love each other. The main difference is that, if one of the ‘children’ upsets their parents, the consequences will be a mite worse than going to bed with no supper! The Christmas Day scene displays just how far over the edge this family have gone, but at the same time shows how normal they are – ordinary, yet fantastically insane.
The lack of any musical score only makes the insanity more intense; the only real background noises are the planes flying overhead and the electrical buzzing we hear in times of acute tension. This is real edge-of-the-seat stuff, difficult to watch, but impossible to switch off.
The casting is fantastic. One couldn’t imagine anyone portraying a more convincing, loving and sinister Mum than Dido Miles, and Perry Benson’s Dad is terrifying, but also strangely amusing – which is an almost impossible balance to achieve. Olga Fedori is fantastic as the terrified but headstrong victim, and Birdie is perfectly acted by Ainsley Howard.
An uncomfortable watch, Mum & Dad will keep you on tenterhooks from beginning to end.
Mum & Dad is available on Both Region 1 and Region 2 DVD from Revolver Entertainment. Special features on both discs are identical:
Commentary with Director and Producer
Interview with Director Steven Sheil
Frightfest Q & A session with cast and crew
Short film – ‘Through a Vulture Eye’
On-set Film London interviews with cast and crew
Behind the scenes