Shane Ryan’s “So, We Killed Our Parents” is a fairy tale for the modern world, as fractured as the tales before it. It has the all the elements of those tales, too, including the characters.
You have your brother and sister (Shane Ryan as Donnie and Vicky
Rodriguez as Denise), your overbearing father (billed as “Big Man” and played by Rex Cobalt, whose very name is larger than life), and the evil mother (Valerie Wheeler in the role known only as “Bitch”), though whether or not she’s a stepmother remains to be seen. The parents are abusive, but instead of running away into the forest, the kids deal with the problem in a decidedly more modern way. They kill them. (Interestingly enough, there is an opening shot of the Donnie and Denise walking down a road with a slightly wooded area to one side of them. When they step off the road, it could possibly represent the film’s break from the standard tales of old as they are not fleeing the situation, but are instead entering it.)
The father sexually abuses the daughter, and may be doing the same to the son. And the brother and sister are sexually involved in what may be some kind of survival mechanism. It’s not a pretty picture, but neither were the original fairy tales, which included cannibalism and poisoning, as well as child abuse.
Mixed in with the movie are on-screen cues to fill you in on the actions and emotions the characters are experiencing. The siblings kill “for love.” They jump on a trampoline to celebrate their “freedom,” and so on. When the murder is shown, it seems like it was almost planned by the kids, as there is some sort of sheet on the floor (though it is unclear whether or not this is a plot point or merely a move by the director to save the carpeting of the house). The scene is filmed at various angles to put you in the role of the victim, and the action is shot at a faster speed to make it seem even more frantic. After that there’s a love scene between the sister and her brother. What starts out as a make-out session amongst their dead parents quickly becomes passionate sex in the shower as the water washes away the guilt of the murders, but not their incestual relationship, which is never shown as being taboo.
It is expected that some critics and audiences will react negatively to this short film. The image of a father taking his fifteen-year-old daughter from behind is not something many people want to see. And there is plenty of criticism that can be launched at the murder and the following sex. That said, the children’s actions seem perfectly acceptable given the situation.
Fairy tales, some say, were meant to teach children the dangers of straying from cultural mores while at the same time dealing with issues of maturity and self-identity. Ryan’s film works on a similar level, but instead of teaching children, it serves as an example to parents who violate society’s rules. And while the children may also be violating those same rules, they are shown as happy products of the situation who will be able to enjoy their lives free of abuse and with a new sense of worth.
Ryan’s film works well on many levels. It’s not easy to watch, however, and its devil-may-care attitude about incest and murder breaches a level of comfort that most viewers will not be ready to accept. That benefits the film, though, as something of this nature should never be reduced to a made-for-television movie.