PARENTS (1989) Reviews and overview



‘There’s a new name for terror…’

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

The film received a mixed response from critics and fared poorly commercially – grossing $870,532 in the US on a budget of $3 million – but has since developed a cult following.


On January 31, 2017, Parents is released on Blu-ray as part of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series. The following special features have been announced:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Bob Balaban and Producer Bonnie Palef
  • Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with Composer Jonathan Elias
  • Four Featurettes:
  • ‘Leftovers To Be’ with Screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne
  • ‘Mother’s Day’ with Actress Mary Beth Hurt
  • ‘Inside Out’ with Director of Photography Robin Vidgeon
  • ‘Vintage Tastes’ with Decorative Consultant Yolando Cuomo
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery


Ten-year-old Michael Laemle has moved with his parents Nick and Lily from Massachusetts to a new neighbourhood in 1954 suburbia. 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 in the Division of Human Testing at Toxico, where Nick is developing a chemical defoliant (like Agent Orange) for use in jungles.

As time progresses, Michael begins to suspect that his parents are cannibals, after he discovers (or dreams that he discovers) body parts hanging on a meat hook in the basement…



“…it would have been very easy and much more profitable to follow the over-the-top wacky, campy route a la Eating Raoul. The fact that Balaban chose to remain so low-key, unrelentingly grim, and  blackly funny is something to be respected.” Jim Knipfel, Den of Geek!



“A surprisingly perfect picture from first‑time director Bob Balaban (previously best-known as a mild-mannered character actor), this makes unsettling use of kitsch ‘50s suburban décor (kidney-shaped coffee tables), creepy‑comic performances and subversive ideas (the message is don’t trust your parents).” Kim Newman, Empire

“The satire of the 50’s is more bland than biting, dependent on authentically garish costumes and sets. And when the horror-film scenes begin to intrude on normal life (what is hanging from the cellar ceiling, anyway?) Mr. Balaban can’t make the dark elements seem comic enough to mesh with the rest of this nightmarish joke.” Caryn James, The New York Times


“Neither particularly witty nor horrific, Parents is simply a predictably boring product of its time, although cashing in on 1950s nostalgia in 1989 is the equivalent of releasing a disco record in 1979 — a day late and a dollar short.” Patrick Mitchell, The Film Yap


Buy: |

Cast and characters:

  • Randy Quaid as Nick Laemle
  • Mary Beth Hurt as Lily Laemle
  • Sandy Dennis as Millie Dew
  • Bryan Madorsky as Michael Laemle
  • Juno Mills-Cockell as Sheila Zellner
  • Kathryn Grody as Miss Baxter
  • Deborah Rush as Mrs. Zellner
  • Graham Jarvis as Mr. Zellner
  • Helen Carscallen as Grandmother
  • Warren Van Evera as Grandfather
  • Wayne Robson as Lab Attendant

Filming locations:

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

New and future releases