SON (2021)


Studio:      Shudder/RLJE Films
Director:    Ivan Kavanagh
Writer:      Ivan Kavanagh
Producer:  AnneMarie Naughton, Louis Tisne, Rene Bastian
Stars:     Andi Matichak, Emile Hirsch, Luke David Blumm, Cranston Johnson, Blaine Maye, J. Robert Spencer, Rocco Sisto, Kristine Nielsen

Review Score:



Years after escaping a cult, a young mother suspects her dark past may be catching up when her son¡¯s bizarre medical condition seemingly connects to a conspiracy.



Years ago, pregnant teenager Anna Hansen seemingly escaped a nightmarish cult. Now she leads an ordinary suburban existence under her new name Laura. Despite knowing her character was impregnated at a young age, it¡¯s a tricky adjustment to accept an actress born in 1994 as the mother of an actor born in 2009, particularly since horror fans best know Andi Matichak as Jamie Lee Curtis¡¯s granddaughter in ¡°Halloween¡± 2018 (review here). ¡°Son¡± still stuffs its first act with enough of the usual giggling, tickling, and cute connections of convention for Laura to build a tight bond with her son David, even if Matichak could easily be his sister.

Laura and David¡¯s unassuming lives are upended when noises draw Laura to her son¡¯s room in the middle of the night. Laura finds cultists standing around David¡¯s bed. The shocked mother immediately does what any panicking parent would in such a situation. She flees across the street to tell a neighbor to call the police, affording the intruders ample time to predictably, I mean mysteriously, vanish without a trace. What? You didn¡¯t think Laura would try to protect her son from the strangers or call the cops herself, did you?

Emile Hirsch finds out what effect a strangling scandal can have on a career as he skids further from high profile projects to appear in this direct-to-streaming B-movie as police detective Paul. An average cinema cop might treat Laura¡¯s claims of invisible cultists like a real cop would. He¡¯d begrudgingly write a report, reiterate that his search didn¡¯t find anything, and he¡¯d sigh, ¡°There¡¯s nothing we can do¡± while disinterestedly dismissing Laura without a second thought. Not Paul. He¡¯s cut from a different cloth of clich¨¦s. Paul is the kind of hands-on detective who takes an unusually vested interest in this ¡°so what?¡± case after 60 seconds, handing Laura his personal number and insisting she stay in touch.

Laura keeps Paul so close that a pseudo-dinner date later leads to kissing. Right on cue, David interrupts to reveal a horrible rash before vomiting blood and collapsing on the floor. Coitus gets cancelled as Laura and Paul rush the boy to the hospital.

Not only are doctors baffled by David¡¯s unusual condition, they advise Laura to prepare for the worst. Miraculously, David heals almost as suddenly as he fell sick. The only clues could be the conspiratorial whispers Laura hears in the hallway, and the suspicious people seen lurking outside the hospital.

Convinced the cult has come for her son, Laura takes David on the run. In the meantime, Paul learns Laura has a history of delusions due to being repeatedly raped by her father. If David¡¯s incestuous ancestry isn¡¯t enough of a trauma trigger, you can be additionally turned off by the revelation that, according to her former psychiatrist, Laura¡¯s supposedly satanic cult was actually a ring of pedophiles who traded her and other children like baseball cards.

With Paul trying to track the truth about Laura¡¯s origin, and Laura desperate to solve the riddle of David¡¯s sudden spells of sickness followed by unusual recoveries, ¡°Son¡± splits into parallel plotlines of drip-fed exposition. Laura seeks help from a fellow abuse survivor, but first she has to speak to that man¡¯s mother. Paul looks for information from Laura¡¯s previous doctor, but first Paul has to track him down through the institution where he used to work. Laura and Paul each end up driving from location to location, sitting through conversation after conversation, on ¡°Son¡¯s¡± strung-along story of ¡°is she imagining things or is a cult really involved?¡± Hint: When has the protagonist in this setup ever turned out to actually be crazy?

I initially scored ¡°Son¡± with an indifferent 50/100 to reflect that it¡¯s a spectacularly average hellspawn thriller with a ¡°how far will one mother go?¡± motivation on top. The film has two recognizable actors, and that¡¯s about all there is worth noticing. ¡°Son¡± doesn¡¯t look cheap, although it has comical bald spots like the big bad demon being a lanky actor with alabaster skin wearing small horns glued to his head. I eventually elected to knock the score down into the red zone because ¡°Son¡± only fills to the minimum line with the lukewarm water of thin characters who exist purely to nudge paltry plot points along a slow and familiar path. It¡¯s an unremarkable horror movie that no reasonable person would ever award a higher accolade than, ¡°It was kind of OK, I guess.¡±

Review Score: 45