Dave Harlequin’s RETRO-REVIEWS: issue #7 – ‘PARENTS’ (1989)

To be perfectly honest, I had completely forgotten about 1989’s Parents until just a few years ago. But thanks to magic of Netflix, this bizarre film about family-style cannibalism has suddenly re-emerged from the depths of (at least in my eyes) obscurity and has, much like a lot of other films out there, found new life on the instant streaming service.

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With that in mind, let’s take a look back at this lesser known horror gem…

Set in the 1950’s (and absolutely smothered in the signature “50’s Americana” style) this offbeat cult-classic revolves around Michael, a timid young boy who has recently moved to a new town in suburban Massachusetts. Michael is seemingly afraid of everything, and is continuously plagued with vivid nightmares. To make matters worse, Michael is also starting to become more and more suspicious of his parents’ excessive meat consumption… meat which Michael is convinced is made from humans!

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On the surface, Michael’s parents Nick (Randy Quaid) and Lily (Mary Beth Hurt) are your completely average 1950’s couple. Nick is a scientist who spends his days working at Toxico Chemicals, and Lily is a typical housewife taking care of things at home. But as is so often the case, things are not always exactly what they appear to be. Could Michael’s parents actually be cannibals, or is this just the overactive imagination of a disturbed young boy? The only way for him to be truly sure is to investigate, which he does, along with the help of a concerned social worker.

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From there, the film continues to build quite a bit of tension and understated terror as the slow and methodical pace takes its sweet time to properly wreck the viewer’s nerves. This could very well be the film’s downside, as this pacing could easily test the patience of even the most well-seasoned cinema veteran. That notwithstanding, director Bob Balaban really does save all the best scenes for last, with the final 20 minutes or so delivering an excellent and very enjoyable climax. I won’t spoil anything here, but I will say it’s well worth the wait.

The last official solo DVD release was in 1999, although it has since gone out of print and now sells on Amazon for as high as $109.99. As a cheaper alternative, there is still a Red Carpet Double-Feature DVD available alongside 1990’s Fear (that’s the Ally Sheedy one- not the Marky Mark one), which is going for less than $10.00 on Amazon. You can probably also find a bootleg copy floating around the con circuit somewhere. Check the horror cons in particular.

 The Bottom Line
Overall, Parents is a great example of how a really good story can overcome so much. While the film is rather campy at times (as is the case with many films of that era) and while many viewers may find the first three-quarters of the film too slow to fully enjoy, the excellent acting, visual effects, and ending sequences more than make up for it. Whether you’re like me and had completely forgotten about it, or have never even heard of it- this is definitely one worth checking out!

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-Dave Harlequin
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine

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