There are very few things cooler, in films and in life, than dependability. That friend you can count on, that tool you know won’t break. When it comes to horror movies, there are few things as dependable as Shudder originals. There’s an assured level of quality that comes with the title, which guarantees a movie will be worth watching. Even when it’s not my kind of thing, I know that a Shudder original will deliver. And so it was yesterday, when I sat down with my wife to watch Son. Because let me tell you, Son delivers, and it delivers in spades.
Of course, having grown up Catholic, a movie about religion and faith gone awry was bound to pique my interest. But Son really goes beyond the usual setting and paint-by-numbers plot. Laura is a mother who must protect her son from a group of people who try to kidnap him. After the kidnapping fails, her son David changes, and she must do horrible things to keep him alive.
Though this may sound familiar, there’s just enough there that isn’t, to entice even the most jaded of former choir boys. In fact, the plot itself takes enough unexpected turns to have even my wife (ever the cynic), cry out: “how did we not see that!?”. The crumbs, which are deftly and almost off-hand, left along the way make the ending extremely rewarding.
Even the secondary themes of parental abuse, the failures of the psychiatric care system and substance abuse are, if you can believe it, subtle. And yet, all the more powerful for it. It reminds me of the authenticity that I saw recently in False Positive. It’s there, but not to punch you in the face.
The acting, from tip to toe, is fantastic. Even the younger talent, in the form of experienced youngster Luke David Blumm (The Sinner, The King of Staten Island), delivers the chills and thrills. Andi Matichak (Halloween) plays a warm and caring mother in Laura, always struggling between her child’s well-being and what’s morally right. Emile Hirsch embodies Paul, a do-gooder detective whose role escalates to a climax.
The cast also includes a standout performance by Blaine Maye, whose drug-addled Jimmy is as complex as he is mesmerizing to watch. Finally, I must shout-out David Kallaway’s Pimp (not something I thought I’d say today). It is not often I see a character whose trait is to smoke through their tracheotomy plug.
Son is, overall, pretty straight forward in its technical delivery. And yet, it’s not. There are shots that look usual, familiar even. But then, you see a tiny inverted cross in a shadow, or a pair of crosses in the way the light shines through a couple of windows, and you think to yourself: “these are filmmakers who reward the attentive viewer”. I approve of that. This isn’t a movie to be experienced on half a screen while you check Twitter on the other. Son is captivating, rewarding and… well, brutal.
For you see, there is a hell of a lot of gore in this. But it isn’t gore for the sake of gore. As much as I love a good bucketful of blood just because it’s Tuesday, the gore that is here is representative of the scene. It’s gruesome, yes, but only because the scene demands it. There are no tidy dismemberments in real life, after all. It reminds me of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal.
If there is one niggle I have with the film’s presentation, is that I wish that sound and music had played a bigger role. I adore a film which uses music to enhance, to deceive, to move. Son falls just short of that, and I wish it didn’t.
Son – Overall, A Fantastic Film
As the subheading says, I have no qualms about calling Son a fantastic horror film. Nay, a fantastic film, full stop. I do think Son is a great horror film, but it is great beyond the genre, too. The commentary it provides on the dangers of religious extremism, substance abuse and the perils of parenthood will ring true, even for those who are not into horror. I have no issues with horror films which are made for horror fans. In fact, I love them. I’ve even made one or two. But I also must applaud a film which pushes that boundary and, buckets full of blood in hand, delivers a strong message for all.
There are a couple of slips that perhaps prevent Son from achieving all-time great status. But don’t let that deter you from seeking it out. For most of the film, Son fires on all cylinders, taking you for a ride full of surprises, excellent performances and top-notch misdirection.
Son is a Shudder Original film, and it debuts on the platform on July 8th.
SON, the new film by RLJE and Shudder is a wild ride with a strong message, and it rewards the attentive viewer in spades.