Mum & Dad on DVD

Saturday, 20 December 2008 08:29

Mum & Dad is a brand new UK horror movie with a slender plot that will be instantly recognisable to genre buffs. Lena (Olga Fedori) is a lonely and vulnerable Polish immigrant, working as a cleaner at a London airport. She is befriended by fellow cleaner Birdie (Ainsley Howard), who lures her home.

Once Lena meets her new friend’s parents, she realises she’s walked into a terrifying trap, and unwittingly become a new member of one of the most dysfunctional and psychopathic families every seen...

Mum & Dad on DVDThis is writer-director Steven Sheil’s debut feature. Made for a relatively paltry £100,000 through Film London’s Microwave, micro-budget scheme, the film is a shining example of the results that a dedicated and flexible cast and crew can pull off with the requisite amount of dedication. Bringing to mind genre classics that succeed with minimal resources, such as Night of the Living Dead and The Blair Witch Project, Mum & Dad punches well above its weight.

It helps that, as in Night, the primary location is a house, and the cast is small, but in the world of horror, tight, confined spaces often provide the best environments for claustrophobic, tense drama.

The movie is probably the closest yet to live up to the term “torture porn”. Without wishing to give too much away, Birdie’s Mum and Dad - played with unsettling relish by Dido Miles and Perry Benson – get even more gratification out of maiming, abusing and murdering than previously seen in Hostel, Saw and Captivity.

In this film, however, interest in the characters is stimulated above the norm by their unpredictability. The parts of Mum and Dad in particular are fantastically well defined and acted, all the time dangerously teetering between everyday folk and loving parents to inhuman sadists. Lena’s challenge is to do her best to keep on their good sides, whilst simultaneously trying to find an escape route or an ally in the house who might give her an advantage. She can never be sure of Mum’s and Dad’s reactions to her actions though, and that is what makes the film so much fun and keeps Lena and the viewers on the edge of their seats.

Throw in Birdie and her mute brother, Elbie (Toby Alexander), and the mixing pot is complete. Despite being established members of this freakish family, Birdie and Elbie still have to vie for their parents’ affections, and if Lena becomes the new favourite, their places in the family, their wellbeing and indeed their very lives might be at risk.

Mirroring the multi-dimensionality of the characters, the tone of the film itself flips between horror and comedy with ease, something that UK horror flicks appear to be better at than most. Some genre movies manage to lose their way by being unremittingly dark and miserable, but that is certainly not the case here. Moments of levity intersperse the frights, and cut through the tension without relieving it completely.

The aforementioned house plays an important part in making this a successful horror film. On the one hand, mold, caked blood, manacles and DIY torture implements in some rooms remind you of the potential terror that lies around every corner. On the other, the communal areas of the home are kept spotlessly clean, reflecting the family’s ability to compartmentalise their light and dark sides. The house lies close to the airport, and it is ironic that hundreds of people are flown over it every few minutes, oblivious to the horrifying acts going on below.

The film presents a novel twist on the usual story of British or American backpackers caught in unfamiliar surroundings. This time it is a Polish immigrant who finds out that so-called civilised London can be anything but welcoming! The significance of a character called Birdie is also not lost on the viewer, with the soaring aeroplanes representing the freedom of wild birds, whilst the house acts as a human birdcage. Of course, the noise of the planes also helps to drown out the screams!

Apart from the frequent roar of planes, the soundtrack is predominantly an effective mix of subtle industrial humming, buzzing and creaking noises. There’s little traditional music to speak of, which really helps to enforce the sensation of Lena’s isolation.

To sum up, this is a conventional, gore-rich horror film which, despite its familiarity, still manages to keep its target audience entertained. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, and even manages to explain where all the lost flight baggage has been ending up!

Mum & Dad is released on 26 December 2008, and - a first time for a UK film – it is out simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD rental, DVD retail (available through, electronic sell-through and video on demand.

Special features on the DVD include a selection of cast and crew interviews, an amusing behind-the-scenes featurette, director and producer commentary, a trailer and best of all, a very striking, (very) short film called “Through a Vulture Eye”, which actually outshines the main feature!

A website is available at


Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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