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The Good Son (1993)

Kino Lorber
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/1/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/26/2017

We've spoken in the past about how true film fans focus on the names at the end of the credits and how most of us have our favorite directors. And while there are the big names -- the filmmakers who are at the core of our love of cinema -- there are also some minor ones which have also impressed us. For me, one of those directors is Joseph Ruben. With Dreamscape and The Stepfather, he created a small niche in the world of horror in the 1980s. (And there's no doubt that many, many things have copied Dreamscape. I'm looking at you Inception.) These films lead to calls from Hollywood and while Ruben continued to make thrillers, they didn't have the edge found in his earlier work. Although, his 1993 effort The Good Son, certainly has some surprises and shows that Ruben was a good choice for the project.

Things are not going well for young Mark Evans (Elijah Wood). His mother has just died after a long illness and his father, Jack (David Morse), must go to Japan for a big business deal. So, Mark is taken to Maine to spend two weeks with his Uncle Wallace (Daniel Hugh Kelly) and Aunt Susan (Wendy Crewson). Jack feels that this will be good for Mark, as he can spend time with his cousin, Henry (Macaulay Culkin), who is the same age. Although Mark is emotional about his mother, he enjoys the distraction and is fascinated by how Henry's world is so different than Mark's home in the dessert. However, Mark begins to realize that not only is Henry's idea of fun unlike his, but that Henry may have a dangerous dark side.

There are some movies which feel original because they do something which is radically different and undeniably unlike anything which we've ever seen. While other movies simply tweak one thing and open the door to new possibilities. The Good Son features ideas which we have seen in other movies, as Mark is the only one who knows the truth about Henry and he can't get anyone to believe him. Mark is aware of what is going on and so are the members of the audience. We are on this ride with Mark as we cringe at each weird thing which Henry does and we squirm as Mark is painted as a boy who is simply grieving and not in touch with reality.

And it's a key-word in that last sentence which makes The Good Son different. While we've seen the paranoid, no one will believe them story before, it's rare that we see it with children, and that's the twist here. Henry seems like a perfectly normal kid (Sort of. Henry's introduction is odd.) and as the story progresses, we (and Mark) begin to realize that there is something off about him. The weird things are small at first, but, Henry's truly dangerous nature slowly begins to reveal itself. For the audience, it goes from "that's odd" to "that kid is going to kill somebody". The Good Son's other ace-in-the-hole is the casting of Macaulay Culkin. It may be hard to remember now, but, at that time, Culkin was America's sweetheart and one of the most recognizable young actors in the world. Coming off of Home Alone 2, audiences saw Culkin as a sweet little cherub, so to see him as the villain was not only surprising, but jarring.

I know that some may be thrown off by the fact that The Good Son presents us with a violently, unhinged child, but the film is a very solid thriller. Ruben takes a familiar, somewhat simple, premise and takes off running. The movie is well-paced, and while it's not wall-to-wall action, there's always something happening. And Ruben has tried to add some nice touches to the film, such as the masks which abound in Henry's world. Now that Culkin is all grown up, The Good Son may not pack the punch that it once did. However, the movie still provides plenty of tension and suspense, proving that it's not all kid's stuff.

The Good Son does not squander its one F-bomb on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Lorber. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a mild amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. Other than that grain, which is indeed minor, the image looks great. The colors look very good, most notably the reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable, and the many exterior shots lend the picture a good amount of depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2-channel audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The score comes through very nicely and doesn't overpower the actors. We get some nice stereo effects which add scope to the movie and highlight some sounds coming from off-screen.

The Good Son Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Interview with Director Joseph Ruben and DP John Lindley" (23 minutes) (has the on-screen title "Seeds of Evil: Making The Good Son") has the two men interviewed separately. Ruben talks about his career and the attraction of the film, which Lindley opens by describing how he became involved. From there, the two touch on various scenes and aspects of the movie. "Interview with Actors Wendy Crewson & Daniel Hugh Kelly" (16 minutes) (has the on-screen title "Meet the Parents") again offers separate interviews, as the two actors discuss their involvement in the film, but are also open to talking about some rough spots in the process. "Interview with Actor David Morse" (6 minutes) (has the on-screen title "Father Knows Best") gives him the chance to reveal why the film meant a lot to him. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long