by Hope Madden
Back in 2014, Irish filmmaker Ivan Kavanagh wondered what to do about a dad who may be his son’s only salvation, or may be his one true danger. Canal had a lot going for it—it looked creepy, performances were solid, and it wasn’t afraid to bang up its cast.
It just couldn’t quite make the leap from good to great.
Same goes for the filmmaker’s latest, Son.
We open on a filthy, barefoot, rain-soaked young pregnant woman (Andi Matichak, Halloween) hoping to warm up with a coffee in a roadside diner. Two men walk in, she exits in a hurry.
Cut to eight years later. Same woman, clean and wholesome now, buckles in precocious little David (Luke David Blumm) to drop him off at school. They’re adorable. They’re happy, hard-working, loving, and about to face some ugly stuff once Kavanagh establishes the paradise to be lost.
An awful lot of movies want to know how far a mother is willing to go to protect the son who may or may not be the real villain. This has been especially true in the last five years. (See The Hole, The Prodigy, Brahms: The Boy 2, Z, Brightburn — it’s a long list.) Does anything set Son apart?
Kavanaugh roots the story in hysteria and conspiracy, sketchy memories of a cult versus police reports of sex trafficking. All of it feels mildly of-the-moment, but the real purpose is to throw skepticism toward the seemingly lucid mother and her claims.
Which is another common horror trope (is she crazy or is she right?), especially in the subgenre where a mother is trying to figure something out that may or may not be supernatural.
So, no, Kavanaugh does not bring much that’s new to the table.
Son does boast solid performances, and the filmmaker once again flexes his strong instincts for unsettling locations and atmospheres. The writing, pacing, and imagery all work together as they should to generate anxiety and dread. Son gets gory now and again, too.
It just doesn’t do anything you don’t expect it to do.