Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What's Great About The Good Son

There are few things I love more than modern trash. The fact that inappropriate and slightly offensive films like Orphan  can still be made in the era of enforced child labor laws makes me smile in ways that should frighten social workers.
Joseph Ruben’s The Good Son is like a delicious candy bar made from cocoa you know was picked and harvested by overworked 3rd world children who sleep 12 in a room and are too exhausted to cry.
Despite being a mainstream release that, at the time, starred the hottest child actor since Shirley Temple, The Good Son is pure B-movie material, an over-the-top mean-spirited Bad Seed takeoff created to shock.
Quick Plot:
Big-eyed 10 year old Mark (post-Huck, pre-hobbit) promises his cancer-ridden mother that he won’t let her die.
Cut to her funeral in the red-brown sands of Santa Fe.
Dad David Morse (who due to The David Morse Code, can only be cast as a douche or kind-hearted yet ineffectual supporting character, the latter which he embraces with a perm here) has to head to Japan to “close a deal,” the nature of which is never revealed but for some reason, lingers as ominous. Responsibly enough, he leaves his mourning son in the care of his estranged (or so it would seem, since the families haven’t seen one another in 10 years) brother, who lords over a stately Maine manor with wife, good son, spritely daughter, and ghost of their drowned baby boy.
We’ve met a lot of very dumb parents in cinema history, but have any quite matched the Evans in impressively low (for a golf score) IQ? When we meet Henry, the boy is sporting a creepy paper machee mask and punching his cousin at the dinner table. 

Two scenes later, he’s killing dogs, dropping a dummy from a bridge to simulate a 10-car pile-up, attempting to push kid sis headfirst in broken ice, and revealing the not-so-surprising fact that he is indeed responsible for kid brother’s death. In an age before Grand Theft Auto, where was this demon child letting off steam before the arrival of Mark?

The quickness to which Henry’s evil develops is on one hand alarming, on the other, expected from an 80 minute thriller that immediately introduces about 9 foreshadowed death traps. In their first playdate, Henry and Mark do the following:
-break windows in an abandoned factory
-climb a precarious 60 ft. high treehouse
-dance atop a deep stone well
-shoot homemade dart guns at cats
-hang out on a rocky cliff

Gee, I wonder if any of these locations and toys will come back into play.
The most important fact you will need to keep in mind watching The Good Son is that Macaulay Culkin was simply playing Kevin McAllister if that precocious 9-year old was never actually left Home Alone. He would still savor inflicting pain on others through crafty do-it-yourself  means; under coddling (and daft) parents, it would just be more obviously diagnosed as sociopathy.

This also brings me to my favorite The Good Son anecdote, newly discovered (thanks IMDB) and quickly rising the ranks of my all-time behind-the-scenes stories*. SPOILERS follow

So if you haven’t seen this movie, stop, cue it up on Instant Watch, and see it for yourself. Advertised as “one of the most shocking endings ever!” it delivers on so many inappropriate levels.
Anyway, now that you’ve witnessed The Best Ending of ALL TIME, here’s the great trivia behind it: Macaulay Culkin had to complete a part of his dramatic fatal fall sans stunt double. Scared and reluctant (because, you know...the kid was TEN), his parents promised him a BB gun upon completion of the stunt. 

A BB gun. For falling 30 feet on film.
If you’ve seen Henry’s tumble into sharp rocky cliffs, you know that young Mr. Culkin was probably shooting his eye out before the premiere.
Prior to the other night, I last saw The Good Son in a movie theater in 1993. The impression it left on me has lasted through my teens and twenties. Not that it ever actually scared me: if my long-lost cousin essentially threatened my life within two days of meeting him, I’d simply tattle. Though that would be sad if it meant no campily awesome film got made as a result.
Because I love trash.
Seriously. This began as another old-fashioned Doll’s House review, but within the first paragraph, I realized that I do indeed want to have this movie’s children. Its good sons, of course. 
Immediately after watching the film, I gave it a 5 star rating on Netflix.
Immediately after watching a very good movie the next day, I turned to my cats and said “That was really good. But it wasn’t as awesome as The Good Son.”
I don’t know quite how else to say it. The Good Son is fast, tacky, trashy and mean. It’s like a stolen sports car covered in candy corn. The only thing you can learn from it is to not raise a sociopath, to not share a bedroom with one, to not go ice skating with one, and ultimately, to pick up on EVERY SINGLE WARNING SIGN THAT YOUR CHILD IS EVIL.

So really, just watch the movie. With alcohol. Or alter a drinking game where instead of taking a sip at every blatantly evil thing Macaulay Culkin does onscreen, you slap your cheeks with your hands and scream at your television.

It will do you good.


  1. Great review....
    I, too, saw this one in the theater back in 93, and still love it.

  2. Thanks Andrew! It holds up in its own weird early '90s kinda way.

  3. I haven't seen this movie since it's hot, Blockbuster release. And as a kid, it was plenty suspenseful and definately stayed with you. Obviously because you're digging it back up like gold on the beach.

    Awesome review.

    You really do make me wanna watch it again to see it as an adult. It may loose some of its magic but hell, I'd love to see how I feel about it now.

  4. The only thing better than seeing it with you in the theater all those years ago, was reading this. great job emily a.k.a The Good Daughter.

  5. This is a great read, and I love the Home Alone parallel. Good stuff, ma'am!

  6. Oh Ashlee, The Good Son loses NO magic. It earns enough to put David Copperfield out of business. Forever.

    Brother: You are awesome. And I think I have to thank you. If memory serves, you REALLY wanted to see this movie all those years ago.

    TheMike: Humble smooches.

  7. Thanks for giving some love to one of my favorite movies! The early '90s offered slim pickings for genre fans but The Good Son was an undeniable highpoint.