Andi Matichak’s Laura being forced to take medicine at a mental institution to forget her childhood abuse is frankly… A much more intriguing premise than the zombie/devil archetypes Shudder film ‘Son‘ falls back on.
This review contains spoilers for Shudder horror film ‘Son’.
Too many horror films today fall in love with shocking their audience, making them squirm in their seat, and watch with one eye peeking through the fingers covering their face. They lose sight of a potential goldmine of a ‘side’ plot shimmering right in front of them. Such is the case of Shudder’s ‘Son’, a film that could easily have taken a fascinating page from 2016 film Split or 2003’s Identity.
All the ingredients were there, waiting for the recipe to happen on-screen in this horror thriller. An unreliable lead character in Andi Matichak’s Laura, previously institutionalized by a state system that didn’t believe her. Medicating memories of her father’s abuse away.
Laura’s son David, played by actor Luke David Blumm, suddenly falls ill with no conceivable medical explanation for his ailments. After Laura breaks David out of a hospital stay, murders follow the pair everywhere they go… While Laura blames her father’s cult and the occult itself.
You would think this was all cleverly building to Laura acting out her revenge on the world unconsciously… While unknowingly continuing the cycle of abuse on her son. But no grand twist finale ever comes. Instead Shudder’s ‘Son‘ film soon divulges into tired horror tropes.
A son that needs to go ‘zombie’ on people in order to stop being sick every few hours, as he’s the son of Lucifer. And David’s mother Laura was given to Lucifer by her father.
Emile Hirsch does a solid job as Detective/romantic interest Paul, wanting to desperately help Laura (or Annie) from hurting herself or other people anymore. Asking everyone who would listen to go easy on her, that she herself might not realize what she’s doing.
Eventually, this laissez faire style costs Paul his own parter, played by actor Cranston Johnson. A much more jaded officer than Paul.
Highlight scene with actress Kristine Nielsen
One of the best scenes in Shudder’s Son is when Laura visits someone she knew from her past life. The mother of a childhood friend, Mrs. Naegle, played by Kristine Nielsen. Mrs. Naegle sees Laura’s son and immediatley remarks, “How could something so beautiful and innocent come out of something so evil?”
She then talks about how she lost her son Jimmy to drugs. How Jimmy’s father was pushed to an early grave from how he turned out, occasionally stealing from them, in and out of jail.
Mrs. Naegle bluntly tells Laura she used to blame her for how Jimmy turned out after meeting Laura’s father but eventually came to an understanding that it was misguided… As Laura herself was also just a youngster. She tells Laura where she can find Jimmy with open remorse, as she knows it could lead to Jimmy’s end.
Blaine Maye plays Laura’s childhood friend turned addict Jimmy Naegle. Laura visits Jimmy seeking the truth, teasing a larger ‘Split‘ like vision but again, it simply never comes. Jimmy ends up playing up the occult connection after briefly trying to tell Laura what happened to them. A great buildup just missing that extra IT factor.
Especially considering actor Adam Stephenson is so convincing as this cult leader father in all of Laura’s flashback memory scenes.
Instead of continuing the spotlight on emotional triggers, Shudder’s ‘Son‘ wants to show Laura finding victims for youngster David to get healthy. Mildly reminiscent of Lizzie Samuels in The Walking Dead. ‘Son’ does all it can to make you despise a pimp character, played by actor David Kallaway, at a seedy motel so you’ll accept Laura sacrificing him to David.
The scene in which Kallaway intimidates Laura to stop toying with him and take off her blouse is strong and believable on its own. It doesn’t really need the whole brutal zombie style savaging by David the scene ends with. There’s just so many things in this film that had the right idea but just missed a step.
Laura walking into her son’s room early on to be jarred into shock by random strangers standing over him is a truly intriguing horror film sight.
But then Laura running, screaming into the streets and her neighbor Susan’s place… And being surprised all of the intruders left when she returns… Well, it just feels kind of silly. Not to mention when Susan, played by Erin Bradley Dangar, gets the zombie treatment from David and Laura just kind of throws a towel over her.
Overall, Shudder’s ‘Son‘ has the solid foundations for an emotional, psychological journey… But somewhat relinquishes it strengths, trading them in for shockers and the supernatural. Thus, the film is about average all in all for a weekend home horror movie.
But all that being said, actress Andi Matichak is quite likable in ‘Son‘ showing great potential. This might have been Andi Matichak’s chance at a ‘The Swerve’ film without the occult connection.
– Director Ivan Kavanagh’s Son will premiere exclusive on the Shudder streaming service on June 8, 2021.
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