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Good Son, The

    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Good Son, The

    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: August 1, 2017.
    Director: Joseph Ruben
    Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, Wendy Crewson, David Morse, David Hugh Kelly
    Year: 1993
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    After losing his mother to cancer, young Mark Evans (Elijah Wood) finds himself simultaneously grieving the loss and tormenting himself for breaking the promise that he made to her to not let her die. His father, Jack (David Morse) is obviously also grieving the loss, but additionally worried about a business trip that needs to be made immediately after the funeral. Not wanting to abandon his upset son, Jack takes advice from his brother, Wallace (Daniel Hugh Kelly), who reminds him that closing this deal will set he and Mark up for life. Deciding that he will leave Mark now so that he'll never have to leave him again, Jack accepts Wallace's offer to take Mark in with his family in the seaside town of Rock Harbor, Massachusetts.

    Despite Mark's initial unwillingness to be cooperative, he finds himself awed by his Uncle Wallace's wife, Susan (Wendy Crewson), who he envisions as a personification of part of his mother brought back to life. And, Uncle Wallace seems friendly enough. Young daughter, Connie (Quinn Culkin) provides a sort of object of affection for the distraught boy, but it's Henry (Macaulay Culkin) who brings Mark into the fold, vocally accepting him as a brother and inviting him into his mysterious world of playthings. The boys do the usual 12 year-old boy stuff; breaking windows, chasing each other, the occasional kick under the table; and it isn't long before Mark finds himself perfectly at home with Wallace and Co. Susan has a large part in this as well, treating Mark as a son, attempting to compensate for the self-blame she feels over the death of her infant son a short time prior.

    But while Henry's mischievous behaviour initially appears only slightly odd to Mark, he soon ramps things up into flat-out weird, like showing off a homemade projectile weapon that he, "accidentally" kills a dog with, and a realistic dummy he's built that he uses to cause a devastating car accident that results in multiple casualties. Henry has some curious points of view on life as well, telling Mark that he can't really be free until he realizes that he can do anything that he wants, and he also expresses a morbid curiosity in the death of Mark's mother, and some chilling comments on the accidental drowning of his own baby brother.

    It isn't long before Mark realizes that there is something seriously twisted about his new family member, an accusation that Henry neither confirms nor denies with passive aggressive, vague statements. "Do you really think that I would do something like that?" is the question that Henry often asks his accuser, after inferring violence against Mark and his own family; poisoning food in the fridge, bringing harm to his younger sister, and even killing his new brother, implying that killing a sibling is something that he's more than capable of. Mark finds himself powerless, at first, to confess what's going on to other adults, especially when Henry tells him that he'll blame everything on Mark. And when Mark finally does go to Susan with his concerns, her reaction is angry and violent, a mixed response of shock and a denial of something that she most likely knew all along. As tensions between Mark and Henry grow and Henry realizes that Mark is capable of ruining everything for him, he stops trying to conceal the extent of his psychopathic traits, determined to get rid of everyone capable of preventing him from "being free".

    The Good Son, a troubled film that struggled to find funding and went through a number of personnel changes, finally got it's footing when Kit Culkin, Macaulay's father and agent, pressured Fox to cast the Home Alone star as Henry by threatening his involvement in Home Alone 2. That's not to say that Macaulay Culkin was a poor choice; he manages to take Henry's creepiness a fair distance, defying his Kevin McCallister persona; likely the senior Culkin's motivation. However, as talented a child star as he was, Culkin doesn't have the follow-through to carry The Good Son through to the end. By the time he starts exercising his homicidal nature, the magic of Culkin's quirk has worn off, becoming an endless cycle of "Would I do that?" questions asked innocently, followed by a vague inference of violence. Wood is also somewhat limited by his abilities in the film, though he comes off as the more competent of the two; at the end of the day, though, he lacks the range required to make Mark's transformation from devastated child to one capable of taking care of business. Culkin's younger sister does well here, throughout, but the film unfortunately suffers from making the more talented adults take a backseat to their young counterparts. Crewson, in particular, is wonderful here, dominating every scene that she's in. A little less emphasis on having the kids on screen would have altered the storyline slightly, but would have ultimately made it a stronger movie, performance-wise.

    As for the mechanics of the film, Director Joseph Rubin pairs well with John Lindley, taking advantage of the seaside locale and expansive sets to build the film slowly through suspense and implied menace, rather than straight out graphic violence. The house is perfect for this, providing a number of staircases, rooms, and nooks and crannies for the story to play out in this manner, and it's particularly unnerving when Wallace and Susan go out and leave the kids Home Alone (snicker), which results in a lights out game of hide-and-seek. Unfortunately, the suspense building wears off as the film reaches toward the conclusion, casting aside subtlety for an overabundance of dramatics, accentuated by an overabundance of Bernstein's dramatic and pedantic score. Although it does manage to redeem itself with a somewhat unexpected and definitely tense finale, The Good Son suffers from inconsistencies that affect pacing and overall enjoyment of the film.


    The Good Son comes to Kino Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded, 1.85:1 transfer that looks pretty clean, though some debris and occasional speckling does pop up here and there. While detail may be a little too good in spots (check out those rigging wires during the cliff finale), the rest of the transfer is acceptable, but not exceptional. The colour palette used comes through adequately, reflecting the season and the location, but lacks pop and the clarity that we've come to expect with HD. "Lifeless' may be a word used to describe it, which isn't to say it's ugly, just uninspiring. Still, there aren't any noticeable compression artifacts on display, and most casual viewers will not find anything to be offended by.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio English track, with optional English subtitles, manages to impress with dynamic range and lack of distortion and other audio issues. Still, I found that dialogue took a bit of a backseat to Elmer Bernstein's sometimes overpowering score, requiring occasional volume changes to compensate. Whispered conversation following sweeping orchestral moments, a common occurrence in The Good Son, sometimes rendered the former inaudible. Still, scenes involving car crashes and cliffs showcase how powerful this track is.

    First up in the supplements is a new HD Interview with Director Joseph Ruben and Director of Photography John Lindley (22:56). The best of the three interviews presented here, Ruben discusses his filmmaking beginnings in high school, and subsequent work in low-budget movies, talking about his dream of making films for AIP. He also talks about working with Culkin and the themes of teh film, as well as shooting techniques he employed on the film. Lindley talks about how The Good Son was his chance to get out of working in television, and his relationship with Ruben, as well as the suspenseful cinematography used in the film.

    Next up is an Interview with Actors Wendy Crewson and Daniel Hugh Kelly (HD, 15:51), who play Aunt Susan and Uncle Wallace. The two, filmed separately, talk about their reactions to the script, and Crewson alludes to a recasting that occurred before she was brought on board. They also discuss Ruben's work ethic, the differences in working on a film with child actors, and Crewson's difficulties in filming the final scene.

    And Interview With Actor David Morse (HD, 6:14) features the actor discussing his attempt to break out of the television world and into feature films, and more interestingly, the history of the Mob-controlled Teamsters Union in Bostron. He also talks vaguely about the controversy surrounding the Culkin family at the time of filming, contrasting it with Elijah Wood's parents, and the friendship with his movie son that continues to this day.

    Trailers for The Good Son, The Pit, and Jennifer are also included.

    The Final Word:

    What was supposed to be a turning point in superstar Macaulay Culkin's career, The Good Son manages to convey the young actor's range of abilities somewhat, but ultimately ends up as an okay thriller that better showcases the talent of Wendy Crewson, and up-and-comer Elijah Wood. Kino's Blu-ray offers an acceptable video transfer with a few extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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