Movie Review: ‘Son’ On Shudder

Review by James Lindorf

Last year a OnePoll survey of parents said that 8 is the most challenging age to parent. Laura (Andi Matichak) would definitely agree with them after everything that has happened with her 8-year-old son David (Luke David Blumm). Things didn’t start smoothly for the young mother. We are introduced to her fleeing mysterious men and forced to give birth in a car on the side of the road. Since then, things have been going well. Laura became a teacher, and her relationship with David couldn’t be better. That all changes when a mysterious group of individuals breaks into Laura’s home and attempts to kidnap David. The attempt is foiled, leaving them both on edge but seemingly okay. That is until David becomes extremely ill, suffering from increasingly sporadic psychosis and convulsions. Laura will have to follow her maternal instincts and maybe commit a few unspeakable acts if she wants to save David. “Son” will premiere exclusively on Shudder on July 8th.

Directors have to work with everyone who is part of the production of a movie. It is how they end up with a consistent film that looks like it was created by one person and not dozens doing their own thing. Writer and director Ivan Kavanagh’s (Never Grow Old) most successful relationship on “Son” had to be with Editor Robin Hill (Kill List). Together they subverted the theory that a movie that feels longer than its runtime is a disaster. People clock watching or, even worse, getting bored and pulling out their phones is a telltale sign that a film will be watched once and quickly forgotten. “Son” is one of the rare instances where it feels like you have watched a 2-hour movie, not one just over 90 minutes long, and you don’t mind. Kavanagh’s story is full of plot, which can often feel rushed and full of loose threads, but “Son” feels surprisingly tight and well-maintained, thanks to the editing.

The story may be well-edited, but it is not the most inventive. There are numerous movies about women and/or cops dealing with cults and even more about evil befalling children. Shockingly the film “Son” may have the most in common with is “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby” or one of the Damien sequels. The kind of movies where the main character knows there is something wrong with their child. Even though the kid may be a monster or the child of the devil, the parents blinded by love to an impossible degree put everyone at risk. It comes down to the execution and the performances to determine the film’s potential success with a story that feels so familiar.

The core cast of “Son” is comprised of Matichak (Halloween, 2018), Blumm (The King of Staten Island), and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) as officer Paul. Most of the other actors get one or two scenes in support of the trio. Blumm’s role of David isn’t overly demanding as he spends half of the movie in bed. The relationship between Laura and David feels pretty natural, especially from Matichak’s side of things. Blumm is adequate there, but he is at his best when conveying the pain from whatever is destroying his body. In 2018’s “Halloween,” we saw Matichak as a teenager trying to escape from Michael Myers, so it was a bit jarring to see her here as a late-twenties single mother. Matichak easily gives the film’s best performance by adding a sense of authenticity to her love for David, her desire to move on from her past, and her need to protect her son. Hirsch is good here because he is good in pretty much everything he does. He also had the advantage of working with this director before. That comfort tends to bring out a quality performance. Hirsch, unfortunately, had the disadvantage of playing the most uneven of the three main characters. Paul is very lackadaisical about everything, from his job and partner Steve (Cranston Johnson) to his budding romance with Laura. Hirsch makes you want to like Paul, but the way he is written makes his motivations ambiguous, leaving viewers as uninterested as he is.

“Son” has a high production value for what was likely a reasonably low budget. It also has strong performances from its most important characters and is well-edited. “Son” has plenty of gore for its story and a few genuinely creepy moments. However, the script isn’t terribly original. Character motivations and actions can be inconsistent. All of this brings the score for “Son” down to a 3 out of 5.

Genre: Horror, Mystery & Thriller
Original Language: English
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Writer: Ivan Kavanagh
Producer: Rene Bastian, Louis Tisné, AnneMarie Naughton
Release Date: July 8th, 2021
Runtime: 1h 38m

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