Release Date(s)1988 (January 31, 2017)
Studio(s)Vestron Pictures/Lionsgate (Vestron Video Collector’s Series)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Satirical art under the guise of a horror film, Parents explores the lives of a seemingly innocuous family in suburbia during the 1950s. New to the neighborhood, they appear hunky dory on the surface with only their son being the odd one out, particularly when he begins refusing some questionable home-cooked meals. Directed by Bob Balaban with Dennis Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt starring in the title roles, the movie presents an analogy for both abusive and neglectful parental figures, hidden beneath a story about a family of surreptitious cannibals.
Mostly obscure for years until it popped up on DVD in the 2000s, Parents, surprisingly, has some effective material in it. Its core concept works well for horror fans, despite the movie not technically being a horror film. The point of view through the child’s eyes is really where the movie excels; parents can be intimidating, doing things that seem abnormal to young minds sometimes. Dennis Quaid’s turn as the creepy father figure definitely helps to sell this concept more than anything else. The paranoia towards the parents winds up being mostly ambiguous, but the movie also attempts to spell it all out. Unfortunately, both approaches clash as a result.
Parents also feels like Bob Balaban, who is mostly known for his comedic acting, endeavoring to cram in as much as possible in order demonstrate some range. However, the movie’s tone suffers a bit for it. There are moments when it feels like it’s trying to be a send-up of the concept while simultaneously attempting some dark, artsy material, particularly the child’s dreams. But whatever problems that Parents has, it’s an interesting piece of work. Besides the actors’ performances, there's also some wonderful set design and cinematography worth appreciating as well.
Vestron Video’s new high definition transfer of Parents is very natural-looking. There’s a well-handled grain field on display with only minor softness here and there. Some nice depth with excellent detailing is also present, especially concerning skin textures and clothing. Color reproduction is nicely saturated at times with a lot of strong primaries and good skin tone hues, while black levels are quite deep, but a little lacking when it comes to shadow detailing (which is mostly baked into the lighting choices). Brightness and contrast levels are also pleasing and there appears to be no traces of digital manipulation. Few film artifacts remain other than some mild speckling and wobble, the latter cropping up mostly towards the beginning. For the audio presentation, an English 2.0 DTS-HD track is included. It’s a surprisingly strong presentation with clear dialogue and a well-placed score. Where it really shines is in its ambience. A low droning effect appears at times throughout the movie, and it carries some deep bass activity along with it. There’s also no apparent hiss or dropouts of any kind. Truth be told, this is probably the best overall transfer that Vestron has carried out for one of their titles thus far, at least in my opinion. And for those who might need them, subtitles are also included in English SDH.
For the extras, there’s a healthy helping of them waiting to be devoured. There’s an audio commentary with director Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef, an isolated score mixed with an audio interview with composer Jonathan Elias, the Leftovers to Be featurette with screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne, the Mother’s Day featurette with actress Mary Beth Hurt, the Inside Out featurette with director of photography Robin Vidgeon, the Vintage Tastes featurette with decorative consultant Yolando Cuomo, the movie’s theatrical trailer, 2 radio spots, and a still gallery.
Mostly disliked by critics when it was first released, Parents manages to hold up because its ideas are fairly universal, but also because it contains some striking imagery. Tonal issues aside, there’s some strong filmmaking on display worth reevaluation. It’s a good-looking movie with some substance to it, and Vestron Video’s presentation is well-worth your time if you’re curious about revisiting it.
- Tim Salmons