Sometimes, you have to wonder what happens to some actors. Take Randy Quaid, the star of today’s movie. Now while most people are more familiar with his younger brother Dennis, Randy is a well known actor in his own right; having earned a Golden Globe and even been nominated for an Academy Award. Then, numerous lawsuits, including one for illegally occupying a guest house, occurred and Randy and his wife wound up fleeing to Vancouver and begging for refugee asylum, saying that they feared for their lives as numerous actors were killed by a mysterious group called “The Hollywood Star Whackers”. Yeh, there is no explaining that bit of paranoia. So let’s watch him before all the craziness occurred with today’s movie, Parents.
The plot: In 1954, Nick and Lily Laemle move to a new suburban neighborhood with their son Michael. After dinner, Nick goes to put Michael to bed but Michael is scared of the dark and Nick tries to tell him a story to help him overcome his fear but Michael ends up having a nightmare of him drowning in a pool of blood. In the morning, is helping his mom in the kitchen as she is trying to cook all of the meat they had brought with them. At his first day of school, the teacher, Miss Baxter, introduces Michael and another new student, Shelia, to the class but when she asks them to tell them something new, Michael tells the class about how to cook a cat, and the teacher tells the class not to try cooking their cats. After school lets out, Michael and Shelia are talking and she tells Michael that she is from the moon and Michael begins asking her questions about what it’s like there until she heads home. When Michael returns home, his father is coming up from the basement and his mother seems surprised to see him and makes a note to remember what time he will be home from school now. That night, Michael gets up to get a glass of water and sees his parents having sex in the living room but Lily quickly gets up and takes him back to bed. The next day at school, Michael tries to tell Shelia but Miss Baxter tells him to return to his seat. She then starts handing out workbooks and asks that they draw their family as their first assignment. When Michael draws his family covered in red, the school calls and Lily goes to meet with the school psychiatrist Millie Dew to talk about Michael. Meanwhile, Michael goes to his fathers work, where he is working on making a chemical defoliant that will kill off plants. That night, the Laemle’s have dinner with the Zellners, as Mr. Zellner is Nick’s boss and Shelia’s father, and Michael and Shelia sneak down to watch the adults, with Michael thinking they are acting weird. The next day at school, Michael is called into Millie Dew’s office and she tries to talk to him about his drawing but Michael refuses to talk. At Nick’s work, Nick head’s down to the morgue, where a fresh body has been delivered, and gets some liver and limb tissue to be used for testing. Back at his home, Michael is watching his mother prepare some meat and imagines himself being wrapped up by a giant sausage link. At dinner, Michael refuses to eat and asks his parents where the meat came from but they don’t answer. The next day at class, Michael overhears Millie talking to someone about Michael before he heads home, where he finds Shelia waiting for him. Though Michael says he’s not allowed to have people over, Shelia heads inside and they have fun but Nick catches them inside the freezer splashing wine over each other. That night, Nick tells a story to chastise Michael and forbids him to see Shelia Zellner again. Michael refuses to do that as he sneaks out to see Shelia the next day and as they discuss their parents, Shelia puts the idea in Michael’s head to find out what his father does at work. Michael sneaks over to Toxico, the company Nick works at, and he sees Nick in the morgue cutting into a body. Michael manages to sneak out of the building and is walking home but Nick drives up next to him and gives him a ride home. During dinner, Michael is fiddling with a pair of surgical scissors he grabbed from Toxico and drops them but Nick picks them up and questions Michael about where he got them. That night, Michael decides to sneak down to the basement and sees a meat cleaver and bloody table down there, and a human leg hanging from a hook. Michael rushes back to his room but finds Nick there, who asks what Michael was doing up and Michael pulls out a snack cake that he had grabbed from the kitchen as his excuse. The next day, Michael is in Millie’s office and she is asking him about what is bothering him but he can’t tell her. Millie drives Michael home and he rushes inside, with Millie following behind him as he heads down to the basement. When Millie sees a rat, she thinks that is what scared him and chases the rat away only to discover a human corpse there. Michael runs up to his room and gets in bed, leaving Millie alone just as Nick and Lily return home and kill Millie. As they cook dinner and bring it inside, Michael hits Nick in the stomach with a baseball bat but Nick recovers and ties Michael to a chair. He then tries to explain things to Michael as he unties him and attempts to feed him some of the meat they cooked but Michael grabs a knife and stabs it into Nick’s shoulder. Nick is angered and attempts to kill Michael, telling Lily they can have another one and raise it right but as Nick starts to carry Michael down to the basement, Lily stabs Nick in the back with a knife. Michael runs down to the basement while Nick kills Lily, then follows Michael into the basement but Michael trips him and he falls down the stairs. Michael attempts to head back upstairs but Nick grabs him and Michael manages to slip from his grasp and hide. As the injured Nick stumbles around in the basement, he accidentally breaks the gas line before knocking the wine rack down on top of him. Michael runs from the house as a fire in the kitchen ignites the gas and the house explodes. Later, Michael is seen living with his grandparents and as they tuck him into bed, his grandmother leaves a glass of milk and a sandwich full of meat on his end table, making it seem like cannibalism runs in the family.
Parents met with mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics that liked the movie seemed to think it was a clever dark comedy but didn’t live up to it’s full potential. The family name of Laemle is likely a nod to Carl Laemmle Jr., the producer for some of the classic horror movies such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and The Mummy (1932). The movie was a dud at the box office, earning only $870,532 off of a $3 million budget but wound up gaining a cult following .
This was kind of an odd movie to watch. The acting was ok for the most part, though felt a little stiff at times. Randy Quaid (Nick) was pretty good, as was Bryan Madorsky (Michael) and London Juno (Shelia). The story was interesting, acting more like a dark psychological comedy than an actual horror movie, though it did turn into a bit of the traditional horror movie towards the end. The special effects regarding Michael’s dreams were ok, though a bit basic to be honest as they mostly just involved a lot of blood flowing around. An interesting movie but not exactly one I would rush to see.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5