FOR anyone familiar with the work of director Brian Taylor, who most famously was one half of the team behind Jason Statham franchise Crank, it should come as no surprise to find that his latest thriller turns things up to 11 and then some. He seems to have taken that famous line from Psycho to heart: We all go a little mad sometimes.

The plot follows a perfectly ordinary middle-class family living in the American suburbs, headed by businessman Brent Ryan (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Kendall (Selma Blair). Both of them are disillusioned with their humdrum lives that are far from what they envisioned in their youth.

One day the run-of-the-mill is turned upside down when a mysterious virus of mass hysteria, which seems to originate from some sort of weird TV signal, infects the parents of the world and makes them turn violently on their own children, turning up in mobs at the school gates like something out Night Of The Living Dead.

The Ryan children, Carly (Anne Winters) and Josh (Zackary Arthur), must then do everything they can to protect themselves from their now-vicious mom and dad long enough to figure out just what the hell is going on.

It’s an out-there film that’s never one for subtlety, always looking to push the boundaries of what is a neat little B-horror movie concept – it feels like we should have seen it done before.

As a streamlined delivery system for all-out crazy Nic Cage, it must get some points for allowing him off the leash fully for the first time since Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant remake.

Yet for all its boldness, there’s something grating, icky and wholly unpleasant about the film, like watching someone play around with an open wound, laughing while they do it. The social commentary built into the film is shallow at best, boiling down to, “isn’t suburban life dull?” and “aren’t kids little brats sometimes?”. The performances do most of the selling of these one-note points, with Blair stealing the film as Cage’s cohort in sudden parental madness.

There’s something to be said for a film that spits in the face of cinematic decency and really goes for it; it aims to tests the audience’s patience in a similar, although far less skilfully and artfully, way as Darren Aronofsky’s shocker Mother! It just would have been that much more effective if it weren’t delivered in such a self-satisfied, shrill way that by the point the screen goes black you’re left feeling like you’ve been screamed at for 80-odd minutes.