Tuesday, July 3, 2012

REVIEW: Parents (1989)

Well, I for one think it’s a great thing we have movies like this. How else could we ever learn what to do if we figure out that our parents are cannibals? This specific, strange and unlikely occurrence is represented in the movie Parents with…well, about as much dignity and artistry as the plot would normally promise…

Director: Bob Balaban
Starring: Randy Quaid's cannibalistic gut

We start off with our main characters, Randy Quaid, his wife Mary Beth Hurt and their son Michael, who is such a good actor that he doesn’t even have to act to show us his character’s personality! He just sits there with a blank expression on his face and we get it entirely – his character was dropped on his head when he was younger and now goes about life with a constant monotone and a vacant look in his eyes at all times. You could argue that he’s this way because his parents are so weird, but nah, I think he was just dropped on his head, because I’m an ass like that.

Introducing Bryan Madorsky, who after this movie, would never be taken seriously as an actor again. Poor kid. I think his real life parents are the actual evil ones for letting him STAR in this shit.

Elsewhere, we learn that Randy Quaid can’t act without enunciating every syllable like he’s constipated and Mary Beth Hurt always has super wide eyes and a fake smile on her face. Michael doesn't feel like eating dinner, so they exchange some pretty poor and stilted dialogue and then send him up to bed where he jumps on the bed in slow motion, followed by a dream of everything turning into blood, like a low-rent version of The Shining:

Yeah, I used to have dreams about falling into a sea of blood, too. But I guess I shouldn't be TOO mean about it. I mean, this IS a movie about...well, nah. I should be even meaner about it actually. I'm too nice!

Afterwards, we get a very sensible and logical transition into this, with goofy sitcom music played over it:

Ah hah...."sensible"....riiiiiight...

Yes, that is one of Parents’ main things – trying to be funny by playing silly music in some scenes. That’s about it. Where’s the joke? Did it get eaten by Randy Quaid? You’ll find that many of the so-called humor in this movie is more just odd and makes your eyebrows raise a little bit and go “Huh?” I don’t really think the writer knew anything about how to write comedy. Oh, and just take a look at some of this rivetingly good dialogue the movie seems to think is worth putting in:

MICHAEL: I had a nightmare.
MOM: Oh, Michael...you didn't take your pajamas off again, did you?
MICHAEL: No.
MOM: Seems the only time you have nightmares is when you take your pajamas off. You didn't, did you? You'll eat something, won't you?
MICHAEL (shaking his head): It was a mistake moving here.
(MOM pricks her finger with a knife by accident.)
MOM: Michael, get out of here!
(MICHAEL runs away.)

....Is this even real? I feel like I got sucked into some bizarro world where nothing makes sense; what are they even going for? He doesn't have nightmares unless he sleeps naked? What the hell is this? And then at the end she just randomly shouts at him to leave...what; why?! This makes no sense and it's making my brain melt!

So...yeah. I don't really like this movie so far.

So Michael goes to his new school where the teacher asks him and the other new kid, a girl named Sheila, to tell the class something “new.” Now that’s a weird way to phrase it. What if the kids told the rest of the class something they already knew? Would the teacher send them out of the class in shame? Anyway, the girl tells them how to make a margarita and Michael tells them that they can turn invisible if they cook a black cat in boiling water...yeah, I don't even have enough surprise left to articulate how I feel about this bit; the movie has already desensitized me to any kind of shock or awe. My apologies.

Naturally because both of these two are clearly the weirdest little shits in the entire class, they bond immediately. She tells him that she’s from the moon, where everyone can just do whatever they want, and…maybe she’s just kidding? Maybe it’s true! Or maybe she’s mentally handicapped. The dialogue is delivered in such a way that it’s impossible to tell. In some movies that can be a big help, but here it’s just lazy since it has no relevance to anything else.

At night Michael wakes up and finds his parents…well, just look:

And that's how you give your kid some kind of complex or disorder; good parenting right?!

Yeah, because I’m sure THIS has NEVER happened before now! I know Randy Quaid’s character can’t be bothered to get the rod out of his ass long enough to talk like a normal human being, but still, if you’re going to roll around on the living room floor half naked, you might want to NOT have a kid who could wake up at any moment! Move it to the bedroom like normal people!

So in a scene so cliched that it's almost original again for these kinds of 'screwed up family' movies, we see that Michael's class is asked to draw a picture of their families! When the teacher looks at Michael's drawing later, she finds...


What an awfully drawn and poorly colored picture! Send this kid to some art classes. He really does need help!

And then that night they’re all getting ready to go to dinner, and Michael’s dad for some reason keeps telling him to behave himself, because…yeah…the kid who acts like he’s in a coma, and barely moves unless you direct him, will probably misbehave…is it THAT HARD to write anything good? Tell me. No, seriously, writer Christopher Hawthorne – tell me! Are you surprised that this guy never wrote anything else for the movies again?

At the dinner itself, Michael and Sheila roll around on the bed while she tries to cut his hands off – again, can’t tell how the hell I’m supposed to feel about this scene. Amused? Horrified? What?! And then at the dinner table the father spills a drink on the mother clearly on purpose aaaaand that’s the scene, was it worth your time, audience? I’ll just assume you’re shaking your heads in a disgusted and exasperated manner as I was when I watched this worthless scene.

Every time Mary Beth Hurt smiles in this movie I just want to smack her face off. So...annoying...

Throughout the rest of the movie we get a lot of forced and trite speeches from Randy Quaid as he doesn’t even try to hide that he’s secretly evil. Truly a performance on the same level as any of the great film villains from Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter to Norman Bates in Psycho. Add Randy Quaid in Parents to that list, movie buffs! Truly he deserves it…hahaha, I’m full of shit. Basically the whole movie up to now has featured scenes of the family eating dinner together and young Michael doesn’t want to eat and just ends up going to bed early every time, sensing something wrong with the food that he can’t place his finger on…so what did he do for his whole life up to now? Just never eat? How is he not anorexic by now? I mean, it’s not like the family apparently made any changes to their routine when they moved into their new house! So what’s the deal? I’m so confused right now!

And really, movie, when was there ever a need to see two small children spraying each other with wine while playing in a freezer with their shirts off?

Ugh, there are just some things that you can't even describe how they make you feel. What the hell am I supposed to gain from this? How am I supposed to react to it? "Oh, the cute little kids are taking each others' clothes off and playing in an icebox with a bottle of expensive wine"? What is WRONG with this movie?

The father forbids Michael to see Sheila again and, although they’re together in the very next scene after that, she never shows up again otherwise. So what was the point of her character at all? If you said nothing and that they were just padding out the movie with filler, you win the million dollars!


So Michael then goes to his father’s work place, which of course has no security guards or even anyone else in the entire building to stop him from just walking through the front door willy nilly. He hides under a table, does not discover anything useful, and leaves. After that, Michael finds a severed leg in the basement at his house, because hey, screw hiding the evidence! Just put your half-eaten body parts in an unlocked basement! That’s the smarty-smart way to be a ‘secret’ cannibal! Then his dad is waiting for him in his room:


Gee. I’ve NEVER seen a scene like THIS before, right?!?!

I mean, OK, so they're not identical, but the mood is very similar and you can't deny this is what Parents was thinking of in its little wormy brain...

I mean WOW, what a blatant rip-off! You aren't even trying, are you movie? I guess what I said earlier about it being a low-rent The Shining was more accurate than I thought.

After that shit is over, Michael brings his school psychiatrist home to show her the basement, but the bloody leg is gone now. She looks over by the window and a dead body pops up from somewhere. Instead of being collected and calm like an adult should be when a child is in danger, she lets out the longest and most exaggerated scream I’ve ever heard in a horror movie as we get a very poor camera pan-up to outside the house where the parents are coming home. And no, movie. Ripping off Halloween while playing goofy elevator music isn’t going to make us laugh; it just makes us more annoyed:


You probably would think these were in the exact same scene in the exact same movie, if I wasn't telling you otherwise. It's not like ripping off two of the most iconic horror films of all time would EVER turn any heads, right? But I guess the fact that no one ever saw this piece of shit is an answer good enough.

At dinner Michael tries to beat up his Quaid-dad, but they tie him up and force him to try and eat some of their delicious human meat. He stabs his dad in the chest and then we get an extremely long and drawn out scene of them chasing each other around the house, screaming, bleeding and trying to kill one another. There’s one scene where the dad is about to throw Michael into the fireplace, but the mom stabs him before he can do so – these kinds of scenes could have almost been interesting, which makes it doubly annoying that there are so many goofy and over the top scenes like with the music. It’s like the makers of the movie were just arguing the whole time over whether to make a comedy or a straight horror film; there’s no cohesion at all!

Also on the list of things that would traumatize a kid. This movie should just be called Bob Balaban's Child Traumatizing Adventure.

The movie ends with both parents dead and Michael in the arms of his loving grandparents. The last shot is of him looking at the delicious…meat sandwich they’ve apparently given him, because I guess just meat and bread is all old people eat. And then we get the credit sequence which is trying to imitate an old 1950s sitcom credit sequence, and completely failing at being funny or effective, because again, this movie was about as coherent as a drunken William S. Burroughs writing with his toes.


I guess this could have been a funny ending, but really, you're doing this after the macabre and eerie ending the film had, and the several very disturbing scenes contained within? It's just confusing as to what they were trying to get across. If this thing had just chosen a direction and tried harder to actually stick with the conventions of that style, it could have worked, but unfortunately it was mostly just a big unwatchable, pretentious mess, and I'm glad I'm done watching it now.

So yeah, Parents is complete ass and merits no viewings in your entire life. But it did teach us that you should make REAL DAMN SURE that your parents aren’t cannibals before you have dinner with them! And I think I’m becoming a vegetarian after watching this movie. Seriously. Ugh.

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