Parents (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bob Balaban
Produced by Mitchell Cannold
Bonnie Palef
Steven Reuther
Written by Christopher Hawthorne
Starring Randy Quaid
Mary Beth Hurt
Sandy Dennis
Bryan Madorsky
Music by Jonathan Elias
Edited by Bill Pankow
Great American Films Limited Partnership
Vestron Pictures
Distributed by Vestron Pictures
Release dates
27 January 1989 (USA)
Running time
81 min.
Country Canada
United States
Language English
Budget $3,000,000
Box office $870,532 (USA)

Parents is a 1989 American black comedy horror film directed by Bob Balaban and written by Christopher Hawthorne.[1] It stars Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis and Bryan Madorsky.


Ten-year-old Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky) has moved with his parents Nick (Randy Quaid) and Lily (Mary Beth Hurt) to a new neighborhood in 1954 suburbia Massachusetts. As Michael is very socially awkward and also has an overly active imagination, he has trouble making friends at school. He is also prone to extremely weird dreams, such as dreaming that he has jumped into bed- only for it to collapse into a pool of blood.

Emotionally distraught from the move and the dreams, Michael is traumatized by accidentally viewing his parents having sex (he believes that he is seeing them biting into one another) and by viewing his father cutting into a corpse as part of his job as a mortician. As time progresses, Michael begins to find evidence that his parents are cannibals, such as Michael discovering body parts hanging on a meat hook in the basement. This seems to convince Michael that what he is seeing is true, much to the chagrin of his school guidance counselor Millie Dew (Sandy Dennis). One afternoon Millie goes home with Michael in order to convince him that he is imagining everything, only for the two of them to find a corpse in the basement. Michael runs up to his room and locks himself in while Millie is found and killed by Nick and Lily.

Later that evening they try to feed Michael human remains but he fights back and manages to stab his father in the shoulder. Nick then tries to kill Michael, only for Lily to try to protect Michael and die in the process. Michael is then chased around the house by his father, who accidentally runs into a gas line due to his injuries. Nick breaks the gas line and then runs into a shelf of wine bottles, which he pulls down onto him and presumably dies. As gas fills the room, Michael has barely enough time to escape before the gas ignites and blows up the house.

The film ends with Michael's grandparents assuming his care. After placing him to bed, Michael's grandfather leaves him a midnight snack consisting of a glass of milk and a suspicious looking sandwich, implying his parents cannibalism was learned behavior.



Parents was filmed in Ontario, Canada.


Parents had an estimated budget of $3,000,000, according to the Internet Movie Database, but grossed only $870,532 in the United States.[2] Since its initial box office failure, however, the film has developed a cult following on home video.Template:No citation needed under any circumstances

Critical reception[edit]

The film received a mixed response from critics, with criticism mainly aimed at the film's tone.[3] It currently holds a 45% 'rotten' rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on eleven reviews.[3]

Home Media[edit]

The film was released on DVD on 25 May 1999 in its unmatted full screen format. The original DVD went out of print for a brief period of time before the film was re-released in the DVD format as a double feature with the film Fear, presented for the first time in widescreen since its original theatrical release.


  1. ^ James, Caryn (January 27, 1989). "Review/Film; Dubious Housekeeping In Balaban's 'Parents'". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Parents (1989) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Parents - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 

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