Parents (Vestron Video Collector’s Series) Blu-ray
Director: Bob Balaban
Screenwriter: Christopher Hawthorne
Cast: Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Bryan Madorsky, Sandy Dennis
Rated R | 81 Minutes
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Directed by Bob Balaban (My Boyfriend’s Back), 1989’s Parents is a comedy about cannibalism against the backdrop of ’50s suburban America. Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt star as Nick and Lily Laemle who, along with their 10-year-old son Michael (Bryan Madorsky), chase the American Dream to a shiny new tract house in a quaint Massachusetts neighborhood.
Nick, a stern man with horn-rimmed glasses and a pocket protector, works at the local chemical research plant while his wife, an effervescent June Cleaver type, is a happy homemaker and perfect mother to their quiet, peculiar son. The socially awkward Michael has an overactive imagination, leading to nightmares about his parents engaging in bizarre rituals. He begins to question why his family serves leftovers every night. “What were they before they were leftovers?” he asks. “Leftovers-to-be,” smiles dad.
There have been several comedies about cannibalism – Spider Baby, Eating Raoul, Blood Diner – that are more biting in their satire than Parents, but few darker. There is some straight-up disturbing shit in this movie, including a few stomach-churning scenes of what I call “meatsploitation,” gratuitous, closeup shots of raw meat being pounded with a tenderizer, chopped and shredded by stainless steel knives, and ground into a bloody, pulpy mess. I mean cannibalism is one thing, but at least be sanitary about it.
Balaban’s directorial debut never quite finds its footing, unable to balance comedy, satire, and horror elements in a satisfying way. Quaid and Hurt deliver some really interesting performances, as does young Madorsky in his only acting role, but these turns are wasted on a script by Christopher Hawthorne that doesn’t know if it’s a psychological horror film or a campy comedy. As a result, it isn’t successful at being scary or funny. Still, Parents might be worth a look for horror fans searching for their next big fix of obscure ’80s trash.
Restored and remastered, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-ray features a 1080p high-definition transfer (16×9 widescreen 1.85:1) from the original film elements. The original 2.0 Stereo Audio is included, as well as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Audio.
There’s also all-new special features, including an audio commentary with Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef, and isolated score selections and an audio interview with composer Jonathan Elias. Other special features are “Leftovers to Be,” an interview with Christopher Hawthorne; “Mother’s Day” with actress Mary Beth Hurt; “Inside Out” with director of photography Robin Vidgeon and “Vintage Tastes” with decorative consultant Yolanda Cuomo.
Despite my feelings on the film itself, this is another solid release for the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, a subdivision of Lionsgate that offers up forgotten films from the VHS era. If you’re a fan of Balaban’s bizarre and sometimes banal film, and you’re looking to upgrade from the previous DVD release, Vestron’s Blu-ray release is likely the best this movie will ever get.