Since the 1971 classic “The Last Picture Show” and spanning all the way to 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” there have been few better modern character actors than Randy Quaid. With his unique demeanor, which can be bumbling, serious, or seriously imposing, he is an unstoppable force. I reflected on this while watching the new Vestron Collection Limited Edition Blu-Ray of 1989’s “Parents,” which is perhaps the greatest horror comedy ever made. It is about the Laemle’s, a typical 1950’s family whose life looks good from the outside-until you realize that young Michael (played by Bryan Madorsky) is mentally ill, while his parents (played by Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt) seem to be hiding something. Could they be… CANNIBALS?
This movie almost makes “Blue Velvet” look like a walk in the park. We share young Michael’s perspective for the entire film, and we share his apprehension about the “leftovers” his parents keep trying to get him to eat. Michael is a strange kid himself, rarely talking and with a young girl friend who claims to be from the moon. Eventually a social worker (played by Sandy Dennis) becomes in his case, but this is not a family sympathetic to outsiders.
This movie plays the audience like a piano, with great 1950’s-style music (mostly by Angelo Badalamenti) and period recreations. We never know what’s going to happen next. Ultimately, the clash between this strange boy and his stranger environment is what the film is about, and the film leaves an indelible impression.
At the center of it all is Randy Quaid. Comedic and nerdy one second, unbelievably menacing the next, his performance is one of the best ever for a horror film. This film scares me like few others do. The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are excellent, and so are the extras. The director, Bob Balaban, explains on the commentary that the film is about him and his childhood. What a scary childhood he must have had!
Randy Quaid and his wife have been in some trouble with the law over the past 10 years or so and currently reside in Vermont. Apparently he has retired from film and TV acting. Well, Randy, have a great retirement, because you are awesome! Don’t miss “Parents” on Blu-Ray!