Directed by Ivan Kavanagh.
Starring Andi Matichak, Emile Hirsch, Luke David Blumm, Cranston Johnson, Blaine Maye, J Robert Spencer, Rocco Sisto and Kristine Nielsen.
When a young boy contracts a mysterious illness, his mother must decide how far she will go to protect him from terrifying forces in her past.
It’s often said that a mother would do anything for their child. Of course, this notion, while comforting, in certain situations, takes on sinister connotations. This brings me to the subject of this review; the horror-thriller Son, a film that shows how a mothers love can sometimes result in horrific outcomes.
Andi Matichak takes on the role of Laura, a young single mother happily raising her son David. Matichak is excellent, portraying the character with a convincing maternal warmth and affection that quickly endears the viewer to her situation. Once David falls ill, Matichak further earns our sympathy as she feels utterly powerless to help her child. The actress brilliantly portraying the character’s growing despair in a subtle and surprisingly quiet manner. Matichak excels at using that same maternal warmth and desperation to maintain the viewers’ sympathy throughout, allowing us to understand her situation even as things become increasingly tragic and gruesome. It’s a strong performance that further cements Matichak as a rising horror star and leaves me eager to see what she does next.
As David, the “Son” of the title, Luke David Blumm, while ever so slightly off at times, still delivers a strong performance as a young boy undergoing a mysterious and disturbing change, maintaining a childish innocence for much of the film. We also have Emile Hirsch in a supporting performance as Paul, a cop who finds himself sympathetic to Laura and David’s plight although increasingly disturbed and perplexed by their case, with Hirsch playing the role in a low-key fashion that, while not necessarily drawing too much attention to himself provides strong support for his co-stars.
The plot is a standard supernatural cult thriller with more than a few predictable twists and turns that you can see coming from a mile off. While it is all familiar and somewhat predictable, the script still throws in a few extra nuggets of mystery to keep you on your toes, such as the suggestion that (without spoiling too much) things might not be as supernatural as they appear. While the film is already dark enough, things grow even darker as the plot begins dealing with paedophile gangs, child sexual abuse and its traumatic aftermath. It’s a curious addition that, while arguably unnecessary, does add an extra disturbing layer to what is already a bleak tale.
The direction is solid throughout as writer/director Ivan Kavanaugh creates a suitably sinister atmosphere that melds well with the dark tone. The pacing is tight throughout, the film never lingering on plot points any longer than necessary. Although things can get somewhat repetitive, especially in the first act, which features two extended sequences of David ill in hospital, the time between visits feeling almost like padding. This issue is resolved relatively quickly as our characters make a run for it, the film turning into an especially horrific road trip.
I have to give Son credit for the relative lack of jump scares, with the few that are used kept far and few between. It’s not an especially scary film but at least it doesn’t bombard you with loud clanging sounds every five seconds. My personal favourite moments come via the short flashbacks to Laura’s past peppered throughout the runtime. These moments don’t last long, but they certainly paint a picture in your mind. The rapid cutting only giving brief glimpses of creepy cult members, mysterious cross-like symbols and an ominous banner declaring “HE IS COMING”. The final reveal might not quite live up to the hype that these quick glimpses offer, but it’s certainly enough to put you on edge.
Son is a surprisingly violent film featuring numerous scenes of blood splashing across the screen. We have moments of bloody vomit, people having their innards devoured, a man choked to death with a cross and people being shot in the neck, to name but a few. It’s nothing to bother your lunch too much, but it is a strange addition given that the first half relies more on atmosphere and building suspense. In all honesty, the lapse into blood-soaked mayhem caught me by surprise.
As an aside, while the film is played straight and works well as a horror thriller, it does have a few moments that made me laugh. Such as the introduction of pimp so vile and unpleasant that it borders on parody or David having a foul-mouthed tantrum that would make Chucky proud. The funniest moment comes via a spooky establishing shot of a sleazy motel with the atmosphere utterly ruined by the image of a blow-up sex doll silently floating in a swimming pool. It’s not focused on, but it had me chuckling like the immature idiot I am. These moments are relatively short in number, but they do at least add a welcome dose of brevity to what is otherwise a pretty bleak tale.
While it may lapse into cult horror cliché from time to time and it doesn’t do too much new with its familiar premise; a spooky atmosphere and a strong lead performance from Andi Matichak ensure that, despite these shortcomings, Son remains a decent and entertaining horror thriller that is at least worth a look.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★