Unhinged Horror Movie Is A Cannibalistic Fever Dream, Stream Right Now

By Robert Scucci | Published

Everybody has nightmares when they’re kids, and sometimes they grow out of them. In the case of 10-year-old Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky) in 1989’s Parents, his nightmares are no match for his waking life in this twisted horror comedy in which his mother and father have a dark secret. Parents is one of those films that nails the 1950s aesthetic but offers so much more than just white picket fences, 9 to 5 stability, and a pantry full of the best-canned goods that money can buy.

Suburban Terror

Set in a California Suburb, Parents offers a horrifying look at what happens behind closed doors when your average suburban family isn’t exactly how they seem on the surface. Shown mostly from the perspective of Michael, a boy who has an incredibly overactive imagination, Parents perfectly captures what kind of sensory overload a kid experiences when they’re overwhelmed by their own troubling thoughts that are then further exacerbated by the problematic environment they live in. Wanting to live a normal life, Michael has trouble adjusting to his new neighborhood and school after his father and mother, Nick (Randy Quaid) and Lily (Mary Beth Hurt), relocate their family from Massachusetts to California to accommodate Nick’s career aspirations.

The Leftovers

Nick Laemle works as a scientist for Toxico, a company that produces a number of harmful crop-killing chemicals not unlike Agent Orange. After work, the Laemle family always feasts upon a substantial dinner that includes bread, vegetables, and questionable meat products that Michael’s parents always refer to as “leftovers.” Michael has his suspicions, however, because his parents apparently had access to these leftovers upon moving into their new house, which doesn’t make any sense to him.

When Michael wakes up one night and witnesses his parents engaging in some very questionable (and bloody) behavior, he’s not quite sure whether he had a nightmare or actually saw something he wasn’t supposed to. But as his nightmares ramp up in intensity, his relationship with his parents begins to fall apart. When Michael starts drawing violent pictures of his parents in class, his teacher sends him to be evaluated by the school’s guidance counselor, Millie Dew (Sandy Dennis).

What’s Real?

Randy Quaid’s Nick Laemle is absolutely menacing in Parents, but Michael’s mental state also suggests that he may be jumping to conclusions when his father lashes out at him. After all, moving your entire family across the country after getting a promotion is a stressful situation, especially when your son is already getting into trouble at school.

Director Bob Balaban’s ability to transition from Michael’s nightmares to his waking life further blurs the narrative, which successfully made me question whether Michael’s parents were potentially engaging in cannibalism or if Michael was simply on the verge of a psychotic break brought on by the stress of early adolescence.

Streaming For Free


Parents is a ridiculously fun and subversive horror comedy that I thoroughly enjoyed because of its narrative framework. The concept of an unreliable protagonist is fully explored until the truth is finally revealed, which makes for an unforgettable viewing experience. Seeing Randy Quaid play such a dark role between his stints as Cousin Eddie from the Vacation franchise was an unexpected treat that I wasn’t ready for but was glad I got to experience.

If you’re brave enough, you can stream Parents for free on Tubi. If you like what you see, you can take a deeper dive by listening to the GenreVision podcast.