After escaping the imprisonment of an abusive ordeal with her father’s cult, the next eight years have been easy for Laurel living with the joy of her son who was born as a result of her abuse. When her son contracts a mystery ailment that causes open sore rashes and bloody vomit, the doctors are baffled when the surely fatal, undetermined disease makes a rapid retreat and the boy recovers seemingly miraculously. Days later, the boy again falls more ill and, this time, Laura suspects her previous life in the cult to be behind his suffering. With clandestine acolytes making the presence known, Laura flees with her son as the two motel jump across the Midwest with no only two detectives on her tail but also the cult looking to reclaim her son with a terrifying and gruesome new gift.
Back into the creepy kid subgenre field we go with another multiplex single mother and son relationship American-thriller, simply titled “Son,” from Irish-American writer and director of “The Canal,” Ivan Kavanagh. Spun from the yarn of familiarities that are stitched together with the overprotective mother trope battling the forces of beleaguering evil reigning down on her child, as seen in such films with Jacob Chase’s “Come Play” and Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook,” Kavanagh deviates from the abstract lines of the mental illness undercurrent that reshapes and plagues centric characters into horrific, supernatural episodes of isolation, grief, and loneliness personified by often terrorizing entities lurking in the dark. “Son” is an American production formed by intercontinental production companies with the UK’s Elastic Films (“Cub,” “What We Become”) spearheaded by producer Louis Tisné, Dublin based Park Films co-operated by Kavanagh along with AnneMarie Naughton and Ana Habajec, and René Bastian and Linda Moran’s Belladonna Productions (“Funny Games,” “Stake Land”). “Son” is an exclusive release of Shudder and RLJE International.
Added to the long history of assorted turmoiled single mothers versus the things that go bump in the night is currently a big name in horror at the moment with being principally casted in the latest three recognized sequels of the “Halloween” franchise. Andi Matichak steps into the wretched past but ever so optimistic shoes of Kindergarten teacher Laura whose introduced in a prologue of heavy rain and the blood pumping cacophony of an intense chase. Pregnant and haggardly dirty and barefooted, Laura is being followed by menacing, unknown men before she pulls off to safety just in time to give birth to a child she verbally proclaims no desire for but reluctantly accepts as her own after a bloody, front seat natural delivery, a moment that not only conveys Laura’s compassion but also her strength. Fast forward, Laura and son David (Luke David Blumm, “The King of Staten Island”) living daily normal lives with school, neighbors, and the ins and outs of parenting. Blumm gives a good run on distress and duress as the titular character that has contracted an illness rapidly reconstructing his mortal soul. “Killer Joe” and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe’s” Emil Hirsch enacts a sympathetic detective taking an interest in Laura’s case, but Hirsch is mostly silent and stiff, almost like he’s part of the background furniture, for the entirety of the character arc, bringing down, as a counteractive device, much of “Son’s” speedball narrative. Rounding out “Son’s” cast is Blaine Maye, Cranston Johnson, Kristine Nielsen, Erin Bradley Danger, Adam Stephenson, and David Kallaway.
“Son” is surprisingly gory involving intestinal viscera and severed body parts with child actor Luke David Blumm at the center of all the carnage and the story is heartbreakingly sober when a mother, a rape victim, has to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. Kavanagh subtly massages the thematic quandary of how a rape resulted child can be a perspective schism. On one hand, the born without sin child stems the mother’s womb, ready to be loved and cared for by instinct to protect our own, whereas the other side, of that coin, more ingrained into the human psyche than we like to admit, is the child is a constant reminder of the past, a figurative reincarnation of a hurtful monster who the victim has to lay eyes on every day for the rest of their life. Kavanagh instills into Laura that blurred line of trauma while imprisoned by the cult and she couldn’t clearly recollect whether her father or someone, or something, else is David’s biological father. However, Kavanagh’s script houses too many illogical potholes to warrant foolproof approval, some more egregious than others. For example, at one point Laura removes her severely ill son from the hospital without authorization because she believes cult members are after him to at which then she arrives back home to gather clothes and supplies to skedaddle out of town. Yet, there were no police officers or cult members in route or staged at the home which should have been the first place anyone looking for Laura, as Emil Hirsch’s character states over the phone to Laura, would be staked out. Secondly, the local detectives are able to cross state lines into Mississippi, Kansas, and Alabama without so much as batting an eye lash, presumably stepping over local authority. Lastly, If evidence of a cult, especially a pedophile cult as one of the detectives suggests, is rearing its ugly head again and coming after a previous victim and her son, the federal government would be much more involved than local PD. “Son” holds fast in keeping it’s cast close to the chest albeit some severe logical issues. With that being said, Kavanagh knows how invoke dread and horror with his bleak narrative and stylistic techniques. Good at horror, poor at story is what Ivan Kavanagh’s “Son” boils down to, leaving behind a lingering middle of the road afterthought in it’s wanton wake.
“Son’s” the past catches up with us all story perpetually never becomes tiresome, hitting every stage precisely with intention and full of scares to garner big, soul-freezing reactions. The iciness of “Son” will leave goosebumps, raise hairs, and shiver spines and you can watch it all now on a UK Blu-ray from Acorn Media International. Presented fully hi-def in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the region 2 Blu-ray is PAL encoded and has a runtime of 98 minutes with UK rating for strong gore, violence, language, sexual threat, and child abuse references. When looking over the picture quality, there’s not much to note other than some scenes appear softer than others in a more a director’s style approach to the content of the scene. Much of the blood is inky black with a nice mirror glaze shine, as Paul Hollywood would say, inside from the solemn color-toned to the natural lighting of daytime scenes. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix has a robust and fiery soundtrack in Aza Hand’s quite aggressive sophomore composing score. Dialogue is clean and clear without any break in the chain or obstruction as the audio tracks are balanced appropriately through all five channels. Special features include a spliced together snippets from interviews with the cast and crew along with deleted scenes more directly involved exploring Laura’s cult-captive background. To say you would do anything for your child is a complete understatement in Ivan Kavanagh’s “Son,” a top shelf singer full of venom , but as a whole, better stories are out there.