At Haddonfieldhorror we are celebrating International Children’s Day the only way we know how – by pointing out how scary these vicious, soulless beings can be with our Killer Kids reviews, here @baaakerley checks out the sociopath Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son…
The sub genre of horror dealing with “killer kids” is one of the most fascinating facets of entertainment. There’s something about the exploitation of childhood innocence that makes murderous children something far more terrifying then the ghost in the mirror or the monster under the bed. It’s real; it’s closer to home. It’s the monster in the bed.
A little over two decades ago, the indisputable minds of Hollywood decided that the most famous and beloved blonde-haired boy in America had a career far too prolific to continue terrorizing Joe Pesci at Christmas time, and he needed a little range. And so Macaulay Culkin was cast as the sociopath kid in The Good Son.
Pitted against his cousin Mark, played by Elijah Wood, Culkin’s Henry already feels like the neighbourhood kid we know so well, just due to the casting; it’s one of the most effective things the movie has going for it. But it isn’t long at all until we know something’s off with Henry, and it’s mostly in that dead, smug, “don’t-fuck-with-me” stare. You know the one.
The Good Son eases into its suspense little by little, but by the time Culkin delivers that killer line, the movie becomes claustrophobic and insanely frustrating in some of the best ways this genre can be. Henry has everyone manipulated like it’s the easiest thing in the world—he’s the most beloved kid in America, after all—and we’d hate him so damn much if we weren’t so afraid of him.
It’s the best thing the movie does aside from the pacing. It’s riddled with choppy 90’s kid dialogue (delivered mostly by Wood) and comparisons to early genre films like The Bad Seed are everywhere, but The Good Son is particularly excellent at turning the mirror upon us. As the adults, we deal with loss in such different volumes that the heavy dose served in this movie—death in the family from both Mark’s and the adults’ points of view—grounds this fear in reality. What is this fear? Not of the child himself, but of not knowing what he is capable of when put under the same pressure in such a situation. And children notoriously bottle it up. We see children everyday, but we’ll never know what they might be going through, what’s going on behind those innocent eyes.
The Good Son deserves a revisit now, especially if it’s been twenty years since you last saw it. The combination of these themes and that kind of fear, frustration, and helplessness are rare in this genre nowadays. And, it may never again happen so crucially that such a child actor, with his kind of pull on the public consciousness, makes you feel just as outsmarted as the adults in this movie. Thank God it’s just a movie!
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Images: IMDb & Villains.wiki