Son

★★★

“Son” (now available on VOD) is the latest in a long line of supernatural horror flicks involving a creepy kid. Even though it’s pretty well-worn territory, this movie has a coupla tricks up its sleeves and is well-made and well-acted enough to warrant a marginal recommendation.

We open on Laura (Andi Matichak), a pregnant young woman who’s escaping from two men that are pursuing her. She seeks refuge in a diner, but they follow her inside. She flees the eatery, gets back in her car and speeds away until she’s forced to pull over in order to give birth.

Flash forward 10 years. Laura is now a pre-school teacher and doting mother to David (Luke David Blumm, who you may remember as the kid Pete Davidson tattooed in “The King of Staten Island”). David is a sweet boy who loves his mother. Their life is fairly idyllic until a fateful night when members of the cult Laura escaped show up to their home. The cultists disappear as quickly as they arrived. Upon their departure, David almost immediately falls gravely ill.

Enter detectives Paul (Emile Hirsch) and Steve (Cranston Johnson). Paul believes Laura and does what he can to assist her. Steve is more skeptical and seeks to dig deeper on the case. As David’s condition worsens with unusual side effects, Laura takes the boy and goes on the run.

I’ve liked Matichak ever since I first saw her in David Gordon Green’s “Halloween.” She further cements her scream queen status here playing both protective mother bear and possible head case. Blumm is a unique screen presence. “Son” is only his second feature film credit. Blumm isn’t as polished as many of his child actor contemporaries, but he brings a genuine youthful energy and sweetness to the role that juxtaposes interestingly with the direction his character ultimately takes. He feels like a normal kid placed in an abnormal situation. Hirsch, who also served as executive producer, is an actor I generally dig despite missteps he’s made in real life … missteps that seem to have affected his career. His work here is some of the best he’s done in recent memory – it’s certainly better than his turn in last year’s putrid “Force of Nature.” Hirsch reads more manly and less boyish here, which should open him up to more and better roles in the future.

“Son” as written and directed by Irish filmmaker Ivan Kavanaugh is awfully bleak but almost always engaging. It isn’t scary so much as it is disturbing. Kavanaugh coaxes assured performances from his cast, ratchets up tension effectively and composes striking images alongside cinematographer Piers McGrail. Interestingly enough, the sound design and score were both done by the same guy – Aza Hand. Each of these elements ably evoke the dread I presume Kavanaugh desired.

I wanted to watch Kavanaugh’s previous collaboration with Hirsch (the 2019 Western “Never Grow Old,” which co-starred John Cusack) prior to reviewing “Son” to better contextualize his work and their creative partnership. I was unable to do so, but “Son” was intriguing enough that “Never Grow Old” will find a place on my dance card sooner as opposed to later.  

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