PARENTS (1989) Blu-ray
Director: Bob Balaban
Vestron Video Collector's Series/LionsGate

LionsGate's Vestron Video line resurrects eighties cult horror comedy PARENTS on collector's edition Blu-ray.

Possibly influenced by David Lynch's BLUE VELVET in its peek behind picture perfect suburbia and its use of slow motion and rumbling/roaring sound design, PARENTS leans more towards the quirky while suggesting an awareness of things more mundane than serial murder and cannibalism but no less disturbing. When young Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky) moves with his chemist father Nick (Randy Quaid, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION) and homemaker mother Lily (Mary Beth Hurt, INTERIORS) move to the Midwestern suburbs from Massachusetts, he is far too preoccupied by his fear of the dark to try fitting into the new neighborhood and school where he makes friends with left back precocious classmate Sheila (London Juno, PROM NIGHT III), the daughter of his father's boss (Graham Jarvis, MISERY). Michael's odd behavior at school comes to the attention of social worker Millie (Sandy Dennis, THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK) through his blood-soaked classroom drawings. After walking in on his parents having sex – and mistaking their lipstick-smeared necking as biting – Michael starts to wonder what exactly their nightly dinner of leftovers were before they were "leftovers-to-be."

Released by Vestron on tape and on laserdisc by Image Entertainment, PARENTS was one of the Vestron titles resurrected on DVD by successor company Artisan Entertainment at the dawn of the format utilizing an existing fullscreen master (LionsGate reissued the film in a widescreen double feature with FEAR in 2006). While the film's bright, colorful, and softish period photography has looked a bit dull on previous video transfers, Vestron's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer restores a layer of gloss to the photography with vivid reds and blues, as well as a better delineation of light and shadow that gives the interiors a more subtly sinister feel. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 rendering of the Dolby Stereo mix gives depth to the scoring from the period songs to the rumbles and roars of score. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.

The disc is accompanied by a new audio commentary with director Bob Balaban (THE LAST GOOD TIME) and producer Bonnie Palef (MOONSTRUCK). The exteriors of the neighborhood were a Toronto suburb that was virtually unchanged since the houses were built in 1958 while the interior set was split level with the basement as a separate set. Balaban also mentions that he was a collector of mid-century décor and drove the film's set decorator crazy by adding items he brought up with him to the film's sets while most of the costumes and furnishings had to be handmade. Palef reveals that Madorsky was the son of an artist friend while Juno was the daughter of Canadian composer John Mills-Cockell (HUMONGOUS) while Hurt and Dennis were friends. They discuss the autobiographical aspects, nods to REPULSION, and the theme of children sensing things concealed by their parents without really understanding them. Michael Felsher provides an audio interview with composer Jonathan Elias (VAMP) who discusses how he got into film scoring by composing music for trailers like ALIEN, WOLFEN, and AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON before working as an arranger for John Barry (JAGGED EDGE) who recommended him to producer Donald Borchers for his first scoring assignment in CHILDREN OF THE CORN. Of PARENTS, he reveals that the distinction between his credit for music and TWIN PEAKS' Angelo Badalamenti's credit for orchestral music comes from his being brought on after it was felt that the latter's cues only addressed the quirky and satirical aspects of the film. Rather than using synthesizers, Elias elected to combine elements into a <I>musique concrete</i> arrangement that melded with the film's sound design. He also discusses his other scoring work and the remainder of the track features selections from his portion of the score.

Felsher's Red Shirt Pictures has also filmed a handful of interviews. In "Leftovers to Be" (16:48), screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne (THE COURTYARD) recalls that producer Ray Stark (STEEL MAGNOLIAS) was initially interested in his script but could not get funding. His agent submitted the script as a writing sample to director Balaban who was looking for a writer to do rewrites on another script. Hawthorne describes the ways in which Balaban made the script his own (the fifties setting) while making certain choices that brought certain unintended autobiographical aspects to the surface. In "Mother's Day" (14:29), actress Hurt recalls how the costumes made it easy to identify with the character because of her own memories of her parents in Midwestern suburbia of the fifties. She provides insight into her characterization and the importance of the character's outward appearance.

In "Inside Out" (13:58), cinematographer Robin Vidgeon (NIGHTBREED) recalls how he was preparing to return to England after shooting MR. NORTH in the states when he was called to Canada to replace the original cinematographer Ernest Day (A PASSAGE TO INDIA) when his wife became gravely ill. He recalls that Day had shot all of the exteriors and location scenes and that his work consisted of the scenes set in the soundstage interior of the split-level home where he needed to tackle a number of lighting challenges. He also attributes his work on HELLRAISER with getting him other genre work. In "Vintage Tastes" (9:26), decorative consultant Yolanda Cuomo recalls gathering odd photographs and drawings from the fifties to compile a resource book for Balaban and the film's design crew, including collages she made from photographs and her own drawings, as well as her thrill at seeing the Canadian crew bring some of them to life. She also recalls disliking Balaban's choice of font for the credits before she was able to transform through analogue means what would eventually become the film's title card optical. Some of Cuomo's material is included in the disc's still gallery (4:52). The film's theatrical trailer (1:33) and radio Spots (1:42) are also included. The disc is housed in a collector's slipcover. (Eric Cotenas)