Mum & Dad

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Edinburgh Film Festival

EDINBURGH — The family that slays together stays together in “Mum & Dad,” a nightmarish little Brit-horror that makes a virtue of micro-budget limitations. The screenplay takes the harrowing, still fresh-in-the-memory case of suburban serial-killers Fred and Rosemary West as loose basis for a nailbiting shocker — a controversy-courting move that may translate into limited UK theatrical play and healthy DVD action elsewhere. The many festivals hungry for unpleasant, well-made midnight-movie fare should investigate.

First product of London’s Microwave initiative — funding 10 movies costing under £100,000 (about $200,000) apiece — it’s a confident, full-blooded debut from horror-aficionado writer/director Steven Sheil. Focus is on pretty Lena (Olga Fedori), a Polish immigrant working as a cleaner at Heathrow airport. After missing her bus home one night, she accompanies chirpy colleague Birdy (Ainsley Howard) to the latter’s nearby house where she’s promptly knocked unconscious. Lena wakes in a squalid bedroom, helpless prisoner of Birdy’s sadistic “parents,” known only as Mum (Dido Miles) and Dad (Perry Benson).

Ensuing episodes follow the established pattern seen in many similar claustrophobic-ordeal tales. Various attempts at escape lead to escalating punishments, then a final-reel bloodbath and desperate dash for freedom. In contrast to his resourceful heroine, self-confessed horror-nut Sheil makes little attempt to get away from his chosen genre’s established conventions. That said, the acidic caricature of “family” life within his house of horrors carries satirical bite, while the juxtaposition of kitchen-sink banalities alongside unspeakable nastiness is disturbingly convincing — and sometimes jaggedly, unexpectedly comic.
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