Everyone knows that parenting is tough. For Andi Matichak’s character in Son, it’s downright hell. Her kid comes down with a mysterious illness that causes him to feed on human flesh and blood to live. Son is a tense film from the get-go and becomes even more so in its closing 20 minutes. While the film doesn’t necessarily break any new ground, it’s still worth a watch, especially for Matichak’s performance in the role of a mom pushed to the brink.
Directed and written by Ivan Kavanagh, the film opens with Laura (Matichak) speeding down the highway in pouring rain, escaping someone or something. She then gives birth in the car, though unwillingly. She repeats, “I don’t want you. I don’t want you.” From there, the film cuts to a few years later. Laura has transitioned into the role of a loving mother to her son David, played by Luke David Blumm. David is an endearing, cute kid. However, their seemingly happy life is upended when Laura claims that she saw people in David’s room, members of a cult that she escaped years ago. Soon after, he comes down with the illness that requires him to kill and feast on flesh to survive. David’s strange sickness becomes nightmare fuel. It starts with him puking blood on the floor and only worsens.
If I have any main gripes about the film, it’s that the cult is never fully explored. The film is ambiguous enough to make the viewer question whether the cult is real, or part of a psychotic break Laura suffers, due to past trauma. Regardless, her past is only hinted at in the opening, various flashbacks, and newspaper clippings reviewed by a detective, Paul, played by Emile Hirsch. Her past is left a little too murky.
That said, the performances outshine the few narrative flaws. It’s especially nice to see Matichak in a role outside of the new Halloween films, one where she’s the lead. Her character is pushed to her psychological limits, doing what’s necessary to protect her son, and Matichak excels in the role. Further, Blumm is great as a co-star. His character bounces back and forth between a sinister demonic spawn who writhes on the bed, growling, and an innocent kid, easy to love. These opposing personality traits are not easy to pull off in a single character, but Blumm does a fine job.
Hirsch’s Paul is more subdued and fades into the background by the second half of the film, until the ending. Still, it’s nice to see him in another horror movie after The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2017). Other elements of the film work quite well, too, especially the pacing. After the pulse-pounding opening, the film slows just enough to build the relationship between Laura and David and show the ramifications of David’s illness. This leads to a hair-raising ending that ramps up the horror just like the opening. Patience pays off. Kavanagh’s film is also incredibly atmospheric, with deep red tones at points that invoke hell and some of the cultish themes that play out.
While Son may not be the most innovative film this year, there is a lot of good stuff in it. David’s illness is unnerving, especially as it manifests and evolves. The performances, especially Matichak and Blumm’s, are solid. Kavanagh proves he can create a suspenseful film that relies on atmosphere more than jump scares. While you’re waiting to catch Matichak as Laurie Strode’s granddaughter Allyson in Halloween Kills this October, give Son a watch.
Son will stream on Shudder beginning July 8.
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