06th Jul2021

‘Son’ Review (Shudder)

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: Andi Matichak, Luke David Blumm, Cranston Johnson, Emile Hirsch, Blaine Maye, David Kallaway | Written and Directed by Ivan Kavanagh

A hellfire and damnation preacher’s sermon blares from the car radio as Laura (Andi Matichak; Halloween, Assimilate) and her infant son David (Luke David Blumm; The Sinner) escape from the cult she was raised in. She’ll run as far and as fast as she can and build a new life and identity for them. But now, eight years later the past has caught up to her. It seems she can run, but there are some things neither she nor David can hide from.

First, she sees strange people surrounding his bed. People who are, of course, gone when help arrives. The police think she was sleepwalking. She knows better, she’s too busy having nightmares to go for a walk. Then David falls mysteriously ill, having seizures and vomiting blood. But whatever it is, it leaves no traces while making him look like he’s been badly beaten.

But when she hears David’s doctors plotting to kidnap him, she knows she has to take stronger action. Only to find out it’s a lot worse than it seems when she finds David chowing down on a neighbour.

Writer/director Ivan Kavanagh (The Canal, Never Grow Old) takes the action movie staple of a single mother forced to take violent measures to protect her child and gives it a supernatural twist. Unlike many similar films, there’s never any real doubt that David isn’t an ordinary boy. By skipping the psychological aspects and going straight into the supernatural Son does give up a bit of mystery. But since in almost all of these films, there is something supernatural going on that’s not as big a loss as it may seem.

Instead, Son quickly gets to the point as Laura tries to get to the bottom of what’s going on while doing whatever it takes to keep David alive and healthy. But while she’s doing that, the cult looking for David. As are Steve (Cranston Johnson; Wu Assassins, Hap and Leonard) and Paul (Emile Hirsch; Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, The Autopsy of Jane Doe), the two cops assigned to the case. And, unsurprisingly there’s a conflict of interest. “I made out with her. Does that mean we’re in a relationship?” Paul tells his less than amused partner.

Son hit all the right notes and kept me watching. A confrontation between Laura and another former cult member, Jimmy (Blaine Maye; Children of the Corn: Runaway) is a standout. As is a violent pimp (David Kallaway; Trailer Park Shark) getting the tables turned on him. The subplot with the police adds a bit of suspense ahead of an inevitable confrontation. And there’s a bit of blood here and there, though not nearly as much as I was expecting, to keep things interesting.

It all builds nicely to a climax that I expected would pull the rug out from under the viewer. Instead, Son goes just where it looks like it’s going to go. The big surprise is that there are no surprises. Right down to the final scene everything falls into its expected place. It’s done well enough, and a lot of people will be quite happy with it. But given what had gone before and the talent involved I was expecting the unexpected.

And that’s too bad because Son is well made from a technical perspective, with some nice lighting and atmospheric camerawork that helps raise the film’s creep factor. The performances are all good as well. It’s still worth seeing, but it falls short of what it could have been.

*** 3/5

Son screens on Shudder UK and Ireland on July 8th 2021.
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Review originally posted on Voices From the Balcony.
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