CRAWLER’S CHAOS: Parents (1989)
The opening minutes of this late 80’s classic are sheer apple pie family perfection, with a jolly tune as the Laemle family move into a perfect little town complete with BBQs, baking, and skipping kids; the whole nine yards. To add to the quaint feel the movie is set in the 1950’s.
Mum and Dad are very happy, very very happy, but what you notice about their son, Michael, is that he doesn’t talk and looks quite nervous of even his parent’s most loving gestures. Saying that, the father (Randy Quaid) has an unusual way of cheering his son up when scared of the dark – “Every where’s dark at night”, and then explains how the worst darkness is in the head. A rather touching moment; for some reason Michael has bad dreams. The first day at his new school, he tells the class about boiling a cat and skinning it in great detail, and also befriends a girl who claims she’s from the moon… bless her. He wants to stay at her house immediately. Another thing worth noting is that he refuses to eat meat or any food for that matter, but his parents smile all the same. Asked to draw his family in school, he adds a lot of crayon blood to the pic. Mrs Laemle (Mary Beth Hart) when discussing the picture ignores the school psychiatrist; she just smiles a lot and gives out shallow answers.
One morning whilst dad cooks sausages we suddenly have a glimpse of what’s inside them – it doesn’t look like pork or beef, or even Linda Mccartney’s veggie filler. The school psychiatrist interviews Michael about his artwork, and shows him a drawing of an average mum and dad in the bedroom pulling back the bed sheets: “What are they looking at?” Michael shakes visibly, “I’m scared.” Dad works at Toxico, combining chemicals and human test subjects; why we don’t know, but it makes for good viewing. As does a surreal sequence of Michael being attacked by long fresh sausages that snake around him as he stands in a cupboard for no reason whatsoever.
Michael and Sheila (the moon girl) are caught by dad messing about in the freezer – a place he’s strictly never meant to go, and dad gives him a really creepy long speech about, well, see for yourself. “How do you know what your daddy does every day?” asks Sheila. So, Michael sneaks into Toxico and into ‘The Division of Human Testing’, and sees daddy at work with tables of corpse like test subjects as he stands there cutting pieces from them. Later he drives home with bags of ‘laundry’ in the back of his car. Michael’s suspicions are confirmed one night when he finds a severed leg hanging in the cellar. The psychiatrist grills him; he’s scared to tell, so returns home with Michael… then the fun begins.
Directed by Bob Balaban, his film allows the characters to grow steadily and we get little clues to what’s to come. It doesn’t use needless violence or gore to get the point across, though when it happens it packs a nice punch. The cast are spot on, the kids play their parts well, but it’s Randy Quaid who shines; he is exceptional, as effective as Terry O’ Quinn in The Stepfather. My horror soulmate said after she viewed this movie that she wanted to become a vegetarian – she’s serious about it! A very effective film indeed.
©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.