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Film / Parents

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You are what they eat.

Parents is a 1989 horror-comedy film starring Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis and Bryan Madorsky and directed by Bob Balaban.

In 1950s America, ten year old Michael Laemle moves to a new neighborhood with his parents Nick and Lilly. They all seem to be a civilized family. But Michael begins having nightmares, leading him to wonder about the source where the family is getting their food.

This film has the following tropes:

  • The '50s: The movie takes place in 1958.
  • Abusive Parents: Nick is more loving towards Michael until he starts snooping around his father's business of where he gets his food and lands on the emotional variety, acting more hostile towards him, even telling "stories" to frighten him into submission. And when that fails, he tries to kill him.
  • Affably Evil: Lilly is genuinely loving toward Michael and considerably less evil than Nick. It helps that it's hinted that she was forced to partake in cannibalism until she developed Stockholm Syndrome and that she herself never personally killed anyone. Likewise, Michael's grandparents, while implied to also be cannibals, are portrayed as far more loving toward Michael and far less creepy than Nick.
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  • Alas, Poor Villain: Lilly was perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to Nick's murders and even partook in eating human meat herself, but she was also a mentally ill woman who was implied to have been forced by her husband to engage in cannibalism until she developed Stockholm Syndrome and came to enjoy it. There is no indication she herself ever personally killed anyone, and she dies saving Michael from Nick, which is played as a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: One of Michaels NightmareSequences involves him wallowing a lake of blood.
  • Cannibal Clan: A lot of the elements in the trope get subverted as Nick himself is the leader of the pack who's managed to get Lilly to eat human meat and tries to force Michael to do the same.
  • Control Freak: Nick is this when he tries to get Michael to eat human meat and implied he's done so with Lilly, whom she acquired a taste of it.
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  • Creepy Child: Michael is a very strange boy who doesn't act like a typical boy for his time period and shows little emotion, though he's still a nice boy with a good heart.
  • Evil Old Folks: While they are very kind to Michael, his grandparents who appear at the end of the film are implied to not only have introduced their son Nick to his practice of cannibalism, but still engage in it themselves even in old age.
  • Faux Affably Evil: On the surface, Nick seems like a loving family man to his wife and son. But when Michael starts to dig deeper into the food source, he gets more hostile talking to him, though keeping an eerily calm tone. And even keeps it when he tries to get him to adapt to eating human meat. It's only when he gets stabbed by Michael is when he finally loses his composure.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Nick wears glasses and very cannibalistic among other things.
  • Good Parents: Lilly is more affectionate towards Michael and even dies for him when Nick tries to kill him.
  • Golf Clubbing: How the school counselor Millie Dew dies when she discovers the family secret and hides in the kitchen closet, managing to evade getting stabbed by Nick but then gets killed with a golf club to the head. Then later on in the day, after Nick prepares dinner, he gets attacked with said club by Michael.
  • Here We Go Again!: After being orphaned and moving in with his grandparents, they tuck him in and leave him a sandwich, which is implied to be of human meat, showing that Nick learned it from them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: "Heroic" might be a bit debatable considering she partook in eating human meat, but Lilly does end up performing one when she tries to stop Nick from killing Michael, only to end up dead herself.
  • Offing the Offspring: Nick tries to do this to Michael when he refuses to eat the meat and stabs Nick in the shoulder.
  • Primal Scene: Michael does this once late at night while his parents are making out in the living room.
  • Rasputinian Death: Nick gets stabbed in the shoulder by Michael and then when he goes after him, he gets stabbed in the back by Lilly. After he kills her, he chases his son down the basement where at this point is getting weaker from his stab wounds and falls down the stairs. He then stumbles onto his wine shelf, which falls on top of him and crushes him. And if that by any chance didn't finish him off, he would be blown up when the house explodes from a broken gas line (due to his earlier stumbling).
  • Serial Killer: Nick is a cannibal who kills people for food. It's implied his own parents were this as well.
  • Skyward Scream: Millie does this when she discovers a corpse in the Laemles' basement, which goes all the way through the vents all the way up to the chimney.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After being stabbed by Michael, Nick snaps and attempts to kill Michael. When Lilly attempts to stop him, he kills her.


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