SON has potential that’s lost
You know that feeling when a film hits close to home because a character has the same name as someone in your life? That’s the best reason I can offer for Son being merely watchable in my household. Filled with tropes from classic films that I cannot name because they’ll give away the ending, Son has potential that’s lost if anyone has seen a pre-2019 film.
Director Ivan Kavanaugh has produced a film that’s pleasant to view. The colors pop when they need to and fade into the background when they don’t. While I’m not going to say he’s giving masters of color like Baz Luhrmann a run for their money, the cinematography truly does add to the scare factor.
However, some scenes could stand to have better direction. One in particular that stands out takes place in a hotel room where an exorcist-like possession (and I use that term loosely, so I don’t spoil the film) truly made me laugh. It’s not that the scene was ill-filmed; instead, the movements aren’t scary enough to set the mood Kavanaugh is looking for, just hovering on the line between infantile crawling and a demon stalking its prey. The film is marked with scenes sometimes verging on humorous with how over-the-top the actors have been directed to act, which takes away from the storyline.
Son follows a single mother, Laura (Andi Matichak), and her sick son, David (Luke David Blumm), as both attempt to navigate Laura’s dark past and how it affects David. Laura’s love interest is a cop, Paul (Emile Hirsch), who soon finds himself following their trail as bodies pile up everywhere the mother-son duo go. At the film’s heart, it’s playing around with the all-too-common theme of how far a mother will go to protect her offspring—with a hefty mix of demons, a satanic sex cult, and incest. If the writers had narrowed down to focus on one of these themes, instead of briefly touching on each to weave a convoluted web of shallow tropes, Son may have solidified itself as a horror classic. Instead, viewers are left feeling as empty as the plot. Any twists are easily sniffed out by even the most casual horror aficionado, and the sudden ending sticks out like a sore thumb as a quick cleanup to wrap the film.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I want to start off by saying that no one in the film delivers a bad performance. Matichak, Hirsch, and Blumm are all more than passable in their performances, and with a decent script, I truly believe all three have enough chemistry with one another to make a good horror film.
However, the characters’ weak plotlines and cliché dialogue refuse to allow the actors a chance to shine. Laura’s past really isn’t adequately explored, and there’s no way for Matichak to make up for it, leaving gaping plot holes that could have been answered with a few lines of dialogue. David’s sudden illness drags on, and viewers are subjected to a painful amount of screaming and wailing that repels rather than evoking sympathy. While Hirsch gives what is probably the strongest performance in the film, his role as Paul is painfully underutilized for 95% of the film with an unsatisfying character arc.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Son’s visual effects truly are well done. The makeup is flawless and pushes the story full throttle, especially in the last half of the film. The film could easily be used as an example of set design in horror films, which is an aspect of the genre that is sometimes covered by “big scary house” or “abandoned building.”
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Son suffers from the same sound issues found in a lot of horror films released in the 2010s: loud, disorienting noises that are supposed to scare the audience but really just feel like a way to make up for weak sound design that sometimes pulls the viewer out of the film.
Tropey, ineffective, and cliché could all be used to accurately describe Son. While the film has some highpoints in the makeup and set design, the mediocre directing, empty script, and poor sound design leave little to be desired when watching. Kavanaugh has shown great potential in the horror/thriller niche with his past work, but Son looks to be little more than a footnote in his career.
“SON” TO PREMIERE EXCLUSIVELY ON SHUDDER ON JULY 8, 2021