Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Cast: Andi Matichak, Emile Hirsch, Luke David Blumm
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: Mask Studios
Opening Day: 25 November 2021
Synopsis: Having escaped from a cult as a child, a mother must face her past when its sinister members break into her home and attempt to steal her eight year old son, David. Now the two are on the run pursued by a detective determined to save them both. Since the aborted kidnapping, something has changed in David and they boys has succumbed to a mysterious illness. Following her maternal instincts to save him, his mother commits unspeakable acts to keep him alive but is losing the battle. Soon, she has to decide how far she’s willing to go to save her son.
Is Laura, the single mother of an 8-year-old child named David who is suddenly stricken with a life-threatening disease, mentally unsound? Or is she truly the vessel for a demonic entity, whose offspring is her very son?
For a good part of its tense 98-minute runtime, writer-director Ivan Kavanagh teases us with either possibility, saving the revelation right till the very end. He also has a chillingly effective lead in Andi Matichak, who as Laura portrays keenly the dilemma faced by a mother of how far she would go to save her child.
As a horror thriller, ‘Son’ may not have the most original premise, but its execution is solid and gripping. It grabs you right from the start with its opening scene, where a pregnant woman, fleeing in a car from two faceless men, pulls over to deliver her child that she vows to end the life of but fails to after feeling a surge of maternal love. Not surprisingly, her past will come back to haunt her, though what that means exactly is gradually and intriguingly unveiled.
Laura’s happy suburban life with David is disrupted one evening when she wakes up one night to find an entire group of people gathered ominously around his bed. However, when the cops arrive, they find no sign of forced entry or any strange fingerprints anywhere in David’s room. One of the two cops though, Paul (Emile Hirsch), gives her the benefit of the doubt, and soon becomes a key supporting figure when David falls mysteriously ill.
It should come as no surprise that David is more than just a cop with a kind soul, or one with a soft spot for Laura for that matter, but you’ll be kept guessing just when he will show his true intentions. In the meantime, much of the story focuses on Laura’s harrowing race against time to save David, not just to avoid the same faceless men from her past from laying their hands on him, but also to catch up with the ghosts from her past soon enough so she can conjure up a specific demonic spell which she believes will keep David alive.
Without giving anything further away, let’s just say the truth behind David’s transformation isn’t for the faint of heart; in fact, we’d advise those who don’t have the stomach for gore to steel yourselves mentally, for there are a number of truly terrifying scenes which involve some severe bloodletting. Yet amidst the gore, it is the love that a mother has for her child as well as the bond between mother and son which keeps the story engaging and even compelling, and differentiates this from yet another exercise in genre shlock.
Indeed, thanks to Kavanagh’s deft direction, ‘Son’ plays too as psychological horror, exploring the depths to which a woman would go for love of her child, even to the point of becoming irrational and dangerous. Across bleaker corners in small-town America, including Kansas, Mississippi and elsewhere, ‘Son’ conjures up a suitably bleak atmosphere to complement its palpable dread. Like we said earlier, it may not be terribly original, but it does get under your skin slowly and surely; as long as you’re in the mood for an unnerving genre piece, you’ll find this quite the skin-crawling surprise..
(Familiar yet surprisingly effective, 'Son' plays beautifully as a psychological horror that is not afraid to get under your skin, literally and figuratively)
Review by Gabriel Chong