Edinburgh International Film Festival

Mum and Dad (2008)

Starring: Olga Fedori, Perry Benson, Dido Miles, Ainsley Howard, Toby Alexander

Directed by: Steven Sheil

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Be afraid, be very afraid - of Mum and Dad

When I emerged from the gory depredations of this year's Dead By Dawn to the story of Josef Fritzl and his prisoners in the cellar, it seemed to me proof that the artistic imagination, no matter how twisted, can never come up with anything as horrible as a real life sick mind. Turns out I may have been wrong.

When Polish cleaner Lena (Olga Fedori) misses her bus home at the end of her nightshift at Heathrow airport, she foolishly accepts an offer of crash space from gregarious fellow worker Birdie. Big mistake. Huge. Because Birdie's 'Mum and Dad' are a deranged pair of psychopaths who make a living fencing goods stolen from the airport (so that's where all those suitcases go) and get their kicks torturing, murdering and dismembering staff and tourists.

Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the suburbs or Wolf Creek in the commuter belt, Mum and Dad is pure rural gothic at the end of a runway – except that poor Lena has committed none of the usual crimes of the country folk's traditional townie victim. She hasn't laughed at Birdie's white trash family, or trespassed on their property – her only mistake is to be too polite to say no.

Quite what this film is saying I'm not entirely sure (other than that living next to a major airport, as director and writer Steven Sheil did, doesn't do anybody any good). A satire on the dissolution of family life so black it could suck life through to another dimension? Or simply an exercise in how outrageously sick a film can be and still retain an audience (which in many people's case is not very sick – if you can't stand to see a knitting needle pushed through human flesh, you really shouldn't go to see a film that carries a 'disturbing content' warning)?

Not so much putting the 'fun' into dysfunctional as giving a whole new meaning to 'family ties', Mum and Dad is a repellently fascinating expedition into cruelty and nastiness that yet still manages to celebrate the occasional unbreakable strength of the human spirit, as, <SPOILER ALERT>in a shaky shot that exactly echoes the final image of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, our brave and desperate heroine emerges, like Elisabeth Fritzl, into the light, silhouetted against the sky.</SPOILER>

Despite the festival hype, Mum and Dad is not the sickest film I've ever seen. But it's pretty high up in the chart.

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