Evil resides in an unexpected place in this gripping, suspense-filled drama. Macaulay Culkin stars as Henry, an angelic-looking boy who seems loving and loyal to his parents, sister and friends. Only his cousin Mark (Elijah Wood) sees what lurks behind Henry's smile - secret thoughts and a love of deadly games. But when Mark tries to warn Henry's family, they won't believe him, leaving the terrified youngster alone to battle his jealous, menacing cousin.
In 1993, Macaulay Culkin was a huge box office draw. Home Alone and My Girl were huge successes, both critically and financially, pushing Culkin to super stardom. Culkin's father, who acted as his son's manager, was supposedly very difficult and abusive to others on sets. In the case of The Good Son, Culkin's dad allegedly threatened to pass on Home Alone 2 if Culkin didn't get the part in The Good Son in order to show his son's acting range from light-hearted family star to a cold blooded evil serial killer - all at the age of 12. If those stories are true, the studio said yes, fired the actors, director, and writer, and started a new day with Culkin and father mostly ruling over the creative process. It was a very troubled shoot and the final film wasn't met with much critical praise, but it did make over $60 million on a $17 million budget.
The Good Son centers on a young kid named Mark (Elijah Wood) who just lost his mother and is being brought to live with his Uncle's family for the winter while his dad goes to Japan on business. Luckily, Mark's uncle's family has a kid his age named Henry (Culkin), who on the surface seems like a fun, adventurous young boy. The two hit it off and have a bit of fun doing what boys do. Soon, though, Mark notices Henry's behavior drastically turns evil. Mark tries to tell everyone, including Henry's mother and his therapist, about the disturbing behavior, which includes murdering animals, causing a multi-car pile up, and even killing his family.
In revisiting The Good Son for the first time in 25 years, certain elements of this dark film hold up while others don't. Especially when one considers how difficult it is to balance the performance of an evil child. You don't want to be too corny or too dark. Still, casting Culkin here feels off -- yes, he's a great actor, but at the time, was still quite young and fresh off of the Home Alone charm. Culkin still uses that charm here in The Good Son, which I imagine the studio thought would be creepy with the right music and dialogue, but doesn't really come across as sadistic.
Ultimately, The Good Son feels like it was made with too many hands (and perhaps one too many stage fathers), resulting in a rushed and silly story that didn't follow through on a lot of setups. Mostly the film just shows Henry's descent into more cruelty without a rhyme or reason. In fact, there is no motive or reason for his evil, which I like in certain characters or films, but for this young kid, there is zero set up as to why he is the way he is.
Still, some 25 years later, it's great to see the performances from Wood and Culkin in a film that should've been amazing. I will give to a young Wood and Culkin, though, for doing some of their own stunts on top of the final cliff scene.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Good Son comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Kino-Lorber and is Region A Locked. There is an insert booklet for other titles from Kino-Lorber, but no digital download. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case with reversible cover art.
The Good Son comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio that doesn't look particularly great. In fact, if I were to guess I'd say this is an older scan from the DVD era.
Despite being a noticeable upgrade from previous releases, there are abundant flaws. Detail shows freckles on the young actors and textures in the white masks that are used, but most things look flat. Individual hairs are hard to make out, while wider shots don't show a lot of depth.Colors aren't bright or bold really, but rather are on the pale and cooler side. There are exceptions though, particularly in the warm palette of the interiors of the houses. Black levels are not deep or inky, but the skin tones look mostly natural. There are some issues with banding and dirt and debris crop up from time to time. Again, the image is an upgrade from previous home video releases, but it's not top quality.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix and sounds very good. Effects are realistic and robust, whether it be windows breaking into shards, or the loudness and depth of a multi-car crash with a good low end. I was impressed with this 2.0 mix for sure.
Ambient noises of waves crashing, the wind blowing, or leaves rustling all sound great as well. The score always adds to the tension as well as the dramatic role of each scene, and the dialogue is always clear and easy to follow along with. Lastly, there are no, pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills.
While we don't have a DVD on hand, all of the bonus materials appear to be HD Exclusives. Please see below.
The Good Son had the potential to be a great, sadistic film, but due to creative differences and Culkin's father, we got the movie that was released. It was hurried and lacked a background or any cohesiveness to the main characters, in that we never get enough time with them to sympathize or relate. Instead, it's a straight-to-the-point type of movie that was solely made the way it was so that everyone could see how Macaulay Culkin could play a villain. Turns out, it was just his Home Alone character set to some creepy music. The video and audio are passable, but not memorable, but the three interviews are worth watching for sure. Worth a Rental.