Written and Directed by Ivan Kavanagh.
Starring Emile Hirsch, Andi Matichak, Cranston Johnson, Rocco Sisto, Erin Bradley Dangar, and Luke David Blumm.
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.
Son puts an interesting spin on stories featuring characters on the run (think Firestarter, or more recently Midnight Special) where both parent and child are suffering from some form of illness. In the case of Laura (Andi Matichak of the new Halloween trilogy, startlingly good here with material that could have come across laughable without the right dramatic delivery), we are unsure whether she really is seeing members of the former cult she escaped eight years ago that are now trying to kidnap her child for some kind of satanic ritual, or if the cult even exists and she’s just a deeply mentally unwell person at the hands of a traumatic upbringing.
Then there’s her young son David (Luke David Blumm) who, whether or not the cult members that tried to do something to him upon breaking into the home were real or a figment of Laura’s imagination, has contracted an inexplicable disease that has given him cravings for human flesh. On that note, don’t make the mistake I made and watch this one during dinner, because bodies do get eaten and the effects of such grotesque behavior are gnarly to behold and put most blockbuster zombie movies to shame. As a matter of fact, the staging behind the revelation of David’s zombie tendencies is filled with tension and slow, methodical cinematography building up to the moment of shock and gore. It’s all doubly terrifying given the feral movements and rabid state of mind during these feasts (although once it’s over David doesn’t remember much, as if he was dreaming) with creepy sound design. Everything on the technical side here is outstanding.
Stuck between doctors that have run every test imaginable and have found nothing wrong and a detective Paul (Emile Hirsch, who is serviceable trying to make sense of Laura’s true past but also seems to be channeling as many Leonardo DiCaprio mannerisms as possible here) Laura runs off with David after overhearing conversations signaling that the hospital staff may actually be members of the cult. It also doesn’t help her situation that David is now a murderer starting to satiate himself off whatever humans he can find whenever necessary.
Not all of Son works, as there are some unnecessary aspects such as Laura beginning to fall for Paul (it’s probably not the best idea to catch feelings for a detective when your child is throwing up waterfall spurts of blood and finding human flesh as tasty as chicken) that don’t come around to adding anything that can’t still be accomplished without the small romance. Also, in ridiculous movie logic fashion, none of the doctors or law enforcement are aware of Laura’s past conveniently until she drives off with David.
Thankfully, once the rocky first act is over (which also has quite a few lame jump scares that had me worried the rest of the movie was going to be bad) and writer/director Ivan Kavanagh affords himself the time to study the dynamic between parent and child, and how they are both broken in very different ways trying to survive throughout unfortunate circumstances, the story is surprisingly emotional at times. Laura visits childhood friends from her past as Paul uncovers information from previous therapists, both of which point to a narrative that could go either way when it comes to the truth. With one predictable exception, Son largely does keep us guessing as things get increasingly more sinister while the performances from Andi Matichak and Luca David Blumm, in turn, become more layered and devastating. Son has its faults but remains a twisted exercise with decent character work throughout.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com