a critiQal film review The Good Son (1993)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: Henry (Culkin) is an angelic-looking boy who seems loving and loyal to his parents, sister and friends. Only his cousin Mark (Wood) sees what lurks behind Henry’s smile – secret thoughts and a love of deadly games. But when Mark tries to warn Henry’s family, they won’t believe him, leaving the terrified youngster alone to battle his jealous, menacing cousin.

568 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 50s)

When it was time to figure out what movie to watch for our Retro Review this Saturday, I let Carmella choose…and she picked The Good Son. This was one of those films where I thought I had seen it before, but couldn’t remember anything about it. Was it any good? I couldn’t remember at all. So, it seemed like a good time to review it. Would Macaulay Culkin’s evil turn be worth watching, or was this Home Alone (1990) star better suited for the hero roles (or nothing at all)?

Macaulay Culkin does a decent job playing the villain in The Good Son. With his evil smile and disturbing attitude, he seems to fit right into the role. Sure, he had an advantage, as it wasn’t that far of a stretch from his Home Alone (1990) role. After all, he spent most of that movie trying to maim and injure the bad guys, whether the film made them indestructible or not. With this film, his actions actually do have consequences, and the viewer should be able to grasp a bit of his consternation to that fact.

Elijah Wood, who has never been a favorite of this site, actually wasn’t half bad as an actor when he was young. Sure, in later years he botched things up tremendously in films like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) (in fact, only turning in a good performance when he played a bad guy himself in Sin City (2005)), but as a kid his wide-eyed innocence worked to his advantage. He plays his role well as the confused hero of The Good Son, and his anti-Culkin makes the movie work.

The rest of the cast is mostly background noise, despite the talents of Wendy Crewson and David Morse, among others. The Good Son is so focused on Elijah and Macaulay, the rest of the cast doesn’t really get a chance to shine. But, in this case, that’s okay, because that’s what the movie is trying to do.

The director of The Good Son, Joseph Ruben, does a good job of playing his two main actors off of each other. Despite their young ages (and inevitable over-acting), he creates a decent tension throughout the film. With no one believing Elijah’s Mark as he continues to witness the crazy acts of Culkin’s Henry, the film quickly builds a rapport between Mark and the viewer. That rapport sticks around even as the storyline gets nuttier, and viewers should be happy with the course of the film because of it.

Sure, The Good Son isn’t perfect. It isn’t even the best in the hidden-psycho genre. But, by using the youth of both the villain and the hero of the pic to its advantage, it presents as a decently chilling feature anyway. By playing on the idea that a psycho kid is worse than a psycho adult, The Good Son does it’s best to create a creepy vibe and stick with it.

Not a bad showing for either Culkin or Wood, The Good Son is still worth a look even today. Sure, Elijah was better as a villain in Sin City (2005), and Culkin was better as a side character in Saved! (2004), but this thriller showcased some actual talent from Culkin for the first time even while managing to make Elijah Wood not completely irritating. That’s quite a feat for this by-the-numbers creeper with a twist, and definitely makes it worth checking out.

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