Synopsis – 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.
My Take – Like most I do agree that if there is genre that has exhausted almost every available resource, it has to be horror. However, that is not to overlook the fact that some filmmakers, like Jordan Peele, Mike Flanagan and Robert Eggers to name a few, bring in the necessary creativity in their storytelling to occasionally propel the most in demand genre.
Similarly such surprises also come from films flying under the radar, who come out of nowhere and shock you into submission, like this latest from writer/director Ivan Kavanagh (The Canal).
Technically, the premise of the film is deceivingly bland and familiar, as it once again forces a single mother to take extreme measures to protect her child from the supernatural and the ones dealing with it, but what makes this one stand apart is its unique execution, making it one of the better ones to fit into the niche sub-genre.
Sure, by skipping the psychological aspects of whether the central child of the film is ordinary or not, and heading straight for the bloody aspects, here, director Kavanagh does give up the mystery early on. However, the strong direction, the performances, and the multiple themes juggled throughout the film more than make up for it, especially by being more reserved than one would generally expect from such kind of horror.
Yes, this not a feature one would remember probably by the end of the year, but it does deserve points for uniquely engaging us by presenting a story and delivering it well, especially with a staggering conclusion that justifies at least a one-time watch.
The story follows Anna (Andi Matichak), a young pregnant woman who while fleeing from a couple of mysterious older men, ends up giving birth to a baby boy in a stolen truck. Now eight years later, going by the name Laura, she is living a content suburban life with her son, David (Luke David Blumm). That is until she discovers a mysterious group of people in her son’s bedroom in the middle of the night. Though Laura manages to summon the police in order to prevent any harm to her child, instead upon arrival, detective Paul Tate (Emile Hirsch) ends up informing her about the lack of any evidence that anyone was there.
Making things worse, David’s health suddenly takes a strange turn as he begins suffering unknown symptoms, which even the doctors can’t put a finger to no matter how many tests they take. Convinced that her past has caught up with her, Laura takes David and flees, to look for a solution, while committing a series of unspeakable acts in order to keep her son alive, as his sporadic psychotic fits and convulsions grow deadlier and deadlier.
The opening sets a tone that never goes away. Though like I mentioned above the plot is a bit paint-by-numbers but the resulting picture is well told with some nice horror and suspense moments. The film is filled with the familiar tropes like the jump scares, romantic subplot, and sudden screams are all found, yet director Kavanagh makes it work due to the film’s tight execution. The plot is constantly moving forward and there is no wasted motion. Every scene adds to the greater mystery.
No one can be trusted, leaving us on our toes the entire time. For a film that hinges on a twist that is revealed early on, I was a bit surprised at how director Kavanagh manages to keep us questioning the solution almost until the very end. While he lays it all out in the first act of the film, in the second act, he surprisingly shuffle his puzzle pieces around, forcing us to second guess ourselves. Leaving us plagued with intrigue towards Laura’s past from the first sequence, and its relatively steady pace unravels towards an eye-widening climax.
The short stabs of Laura’s past is a constant reminder of the circumstances that have molded her into the commanding lead of this feature. Her fear of the past is challenged by her courage as a mother, and that sense of unconditional love and nurturing is rooted at the film’s core.
Sure, given certain things about David’s sickness and his dreadful temporary cure, the mystery of Laura’s past isn’t much of a question. The kid is really sick, with medical experts to back it up, and driven by that illness to do what he does, with his mother’s help, eventually. Laura’s drive to protect her son and provide whatever relief she can for him, no matter what she has to do to deliver, is what grounds this film, despite its suggestions of the supernatural and its quite bloody scenes, moments made more impactful due to some disgusting sound effects and tasteful practical effects.
However, in my opinion, the ending felt like self-sabotage. While the film seemed interested in playing in certain gray areas but never commits to the ambiguity. Hence, the drastic decision Laura positions herself to take at the film’s climax doesn’t feel quite earned. Though the drastic decision Laura positions herself to take at the film’s climax doesn’t feel quite earned, but the framework for how she gets there is consistent throughout the film, it needed a bit more structure and not feel like a cop out.
Performance wise, Andi Matichak is quite excellent as she is efficiently carries the film on her shoulders. Emile Hirsch too provides her excellent support, by molding assuredly into the role. Luke David Blumm does well especially in the bloody scenes, while Cranston Johnson and Erin Bradley Dangar are good in other roles. On the whole, ‘Son’ is an enjoyable horror-thriller backed by committed performances and a laudable execution.
Directed – Ivan Kavanagh
Rated – NR
Run Time – 98 minutes