Screams from the Crypt: Parents
We've been really lucky over the past few months to have some amazing reissues come to Blu-ray. Phantasm finally made its Blu debut (and looks incredible thanks to J.J. Abrams), Arrow Video's massive Hellraiser set, The Scarlet Box, containing the first three films and a plethora of special features hit shelves, as well as Creepshow II. Severin Films released the underrated zombie flick Burial Ground and Scream Factory satisfied our Cronenberg needs with Dead Ringers and Rabid. What a time to be alive!
A few months back on the Hey Whatcha Watchin? podcast, I joined Marcelo Pico and Matt Curione and we briefly talked about the newly resurrected Vestron Video label and their first two releases; Chopping Mall and Blood Diner, well Vestron Video has been keeping busy! Releasing a Waxworks 1&2 double feature, Brian Yuzna's Return of the Living Dead 3, and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud. This week, Vestron unleashes its latest batch for the masses; Ken Russell's Lair of the White Worm, and Bob Balaban's Parents. I was able to view both releases early, and while I've always fancied Lair of the White Worm, it was Parents that really struck a chord with me. I have vague memories of this on cable back in the early 90's and only remember the famous "dive in the bed that turns into a pool of blood" scene. Well, here we are 28 years later, and this slice of 50's nostalgia has aged incredibly well!
1989 d. Bob Balaban
Parents is told from the point of view of ten year old Michael (Bryan Madorsky), growing up in a cold, sanitized, and uncanny 1950's suburbia with his parents who are so perfect they are down-right creepy (played wonderfully by Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt). Michael knows something must be up, and the film eerily displays the dark fantasies that can develop in a child's mind when he isn't quite sure why the world is the way it is. We've all had these feelings when lonely and isolated, and it is especially apparent in those odd pre-teen years when we are old enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality yet not mature enough to handle just what that reality is.
After waking from a nightmare, Michael walks in on his parents having sex and develops a bizarre fantasy where they have become cannibals. In fact, Michael's unusually frightening nightmares are coupled with the strange sensation that the "leftovers" that he is forced to eat at breakfast and dinner are more than just bacon. Freud would have a field day with this film. Director Bob Balaban puts the psycho back in psychosexual with the kind of wanton abandon that David Lynch is usually found treading in. In fact, I'd guess that Lynch was a huge influence on this, even down Balaban's use of Lynch staple Angelo Badalamenti to provide the score!
In his feature film debut, Balaban (a Christopher Guest staple) leisurely paces the film by working in a hypnotic lull that oozes with nostalgia and suffocates the air. The eerie music score and a well-devised soundtrack paints an accurate state of the mood and the colorfully sublime photography adds another dimension to its whimsical nature and striking visions. You're simply alerted by its originality, which can be found in many underling details and out-of-left-field scenarios. The suburban family looks all the merry, but under the surface there's growing unease between Michael and his father and latter half of the film follows the conventions of your standard horror flick but does it so beautifully that I was left completely stunned. Sublime, satirical, uncanny, and as near perfect a cult film as you could ask for.
Special shout out to eternal crazy man Randy Quaid. He's extremely terrifying in this and whenever he is on screen you can feel the tension. I started to sweat. The transfer looks great and the Blu contains a commentary with Balaban and a slew of neat featurettes! It hits stores on January 31st.
Here's a quick look at some sweet new Blu-rays and who's taking care of the releases:
- Poltergeist 2 & 3 (January 31st)
- Tales from the Hood (April 18th)
- Deadtime Stories (February 28th)
- House: Two Stories (March 21st)
- Psychomania (February 21st)
- The Gate (February 28th)
- Wishmaster Collection (March 28th)