The episode of Best Horror Movie You Never Saw covering The Good Son was Written and Narrated by Kier Gomes, Edited by Paul Bookstaber, Produced by John Fallon and Tyler Nichols, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
There is nothing like a proverbial bond between one’s own offspring. The joys are finding your inner self within them. The feeling of self-fulfillment, reproducing your very own mini-me. The realization that you have much more purpose in this world than just being a cog in corporate America riding that 9-5 grind. Ah yes, the moments you share with your own child far outweigh the trials and tribulations of dealing with the everyday stress of adulthood. But what if that child has an embedded evil inside of them? What if their own volition comes with malice and harm? Would you cope with still accepting them as they were? Would you sleep with one eye open, bedroom door locked, just waiting to meet your demise at the hands of your child? We have seen it many times prior in our horror cinema archives, but one of the best iterations of this classic horror trope comes from director Joseph Ruben. It asks the question: What if Kevin McCallister from Home Alone is the very child you fear and becomes your very own personal grim reaper when the time is right? Downright terrifying. So let’s look at why 1993’s The Good Son (watch it HERE) is one of the Best Horror Movies You Never Saw.
After the critical success and praise of Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, it was time for our favorite child star to spread his wings. He was going to go from dispatching pesky bandits, and move up to eliminating family members with evil, malicious intent. It also gave another famous child star, and Mr. Frodo Baggins himself, Elijah Wood, availability to play the other co-lead. So he stepped into the role of protagonist Mark, serving as Culkin’s cousin in the film.
The Good Son was in development hell since 1988 and went through multiple shutdowns due to budgeting. It was actually Macaulay Culkin’s father, Kit Culkin who got the gears turning again. Kit Culkin wanted his son to be in this movie so bad that he threatened 20th Century Fox to put Macaulay in The Good Son, or he will remove Macaulay from being in Home Alone 2. 20th Century Fox agreed and the original director Michael Lehmann eventually left the production due to disagreements with Kit Culkin. Director Joseph Rubin, who had experience with horror films before like The Stepfather and Sleeping with the Enemy, wasn’t the first choice to direct the movie.
The Good Son went into production in November 1992 and ended three months later in February 1993 which allowed ample time for Macaulay Culkin to finish up his production schedule on Home Alone 2. Guess Kit wasn’t able to threaten his way out of that.
The Good Son takes off with our main protagonist Mark, played by Elijah Wood, being sent to his aunt and uncle’s house after the death of his mother. His father leaves him for a business trip overseas which puts us on this dreadful journey of awkwardness as Mark hasn’t seen his extended family for a whopping ten years. From there Mark is greeted by his external family and takes to having a potential friend in his cousin, Henry, and little cousin Connie. You may not recognize her but that’s Macaulay Culkin’s real-life sister, Quinn. Not the last time we’ll see one of Culkin’s siblings show up, but we’ll get to that later.
What a time for a grieving boy to make a new friend in Henry. Funny thing is, Henry is not the innocent, charming little boy his family makes him out to be. Henry first introduces himself dangling upside down on the banister with a creepy handmade face mask out of something from Leatherface’s lair – if you come across any kid that makes these types of masks as a hobby: stay clear. Also don’t let someone you hardly know kick your legs with vicious intent at the dinner table and passing it off as playing. Henry is turning into a bonafide little shit already.
As we keep venturing down the psycho rabbit hole we see dubious things like egging on Mark about not smoking cigarettes, playfully joking on letting him go dangling from a tree house, or digging at Mark’s deceased mother’s skin color after death. The ball of yarn starts to unravel, and Henry’s sinister intentions start to become more clear.
We see Henry and Mark continue their journey day after day running from rabid dogs and shooting animals with makeshift bolt guns and eventually killing the rabid dog that Henry taunted. Elijah Wood went on a journey to destroy a ring in Mordor. In The Good Son, he’s on a journey to fuckedville with the devil incarnate himself, yet I’d take Mordor over this any day. We see Mark and Henry’s mother form a bond as well, which makes Henry very jealous, he does love to stalk in the shadows watching his cousin get too close to his own family. Wendy Crewson played the mother here but was originally cast with Mary Steenburgen. Unfortunately, she had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Oh what could have been.
Throughout the movie, we start putting clues together of Henry’s brother, Richard, who passed away as a baby. Richard is played by Macaulay Culkin’s real-life brother Rory. But don’t expect a cameo in the flesh as he just appears in picture form. The mother overlooking the horizon on a cliff, Mark passing by Richard’s empty room, the face the mother makes when Mark asks about Richard in a picture frame, the marital discourse about Richard, it all points to Henry and it’s tearing Susan apart.
Now here’s when the sadistic, asshole meter starts to burst. Henry shows Mark a life-size ragdoll by the name of Mr. Highway. They take it above an overpass and Henry decides to push it off resulting in a devastating pile up. Hell, even Henry decides to put his own sister in harm’s way by throwing her into thinning ice, which almost kills her. What a jerk. He doubles down by blackmailing Mark, saying if he steps out of line, he can tell his parents that Mark made him do awful things. Oh, what a tangled web Henry weaves.
Director Joseph Rubin was asked if he thought people would be upset that Macaulay would say the F word on screen to which director Joseph Rubin replied, “I love that moment, it’s so shocking and so unexpected, and that’s what movies are for, if you want to watch something safe, just watch tv. This movie hopefully pushes things to the edge. Mac got a kick out of it, and I got a kick out of it so we just did it.”
It’s Henry’s mother Susan that eventually decides to go in Henry’s clubhouse one morning and spots Richard’s rubber duck. The same duck that was in the tub and went missing after Richard drowned. Henry asks for the duck back, but an altercation happens, raising an alarm in his mom’s head that Henry was the one that killed Richard and Mark may be telling the truth after all. It’s a great reveal and really sells the danger.
Back at the house Mark pulls out some sharp scissors and threatens Henry with them. With the blade to Henry’s throat, Henry eggs him on to do it, but not before Henry’s father walks in and locks Mark in their study and gets the therapist. Henry waits for his mother to return and asks to go for a walk…. yea let’s see how that pans out. Mark sees them walk off and breaks the window and chases after them. After admitting to his mom that he killed Richard, he runs off but clearly, it’s another trap, as Susan, the mother walks down by the rock face to check for Henry. Henry comes through the bushes like a battering ram and shoves her off the cliff but she manages to get miraculous hand placement and clings on.
Here is where the 3rd act plays out and we finally see that little asshole get his comeuppance. When Henry is about to deal the death blow to his mother, Mark tackles him to the ground, resulting in Susan to climb back up. While they roll around and tussle, they both wind up over the cliff but Susan grabs them both before they can fall to their deaths. During an interview with Yahoo, Elijah Wood stated that the third act was entirely practical. He and Macauley Culkin were trained to be comfortable hanging from that same cliff 180 feet above ground with multiple harnesses held by a secure crane. Hard to imagine it not being green screen today. Outside of these cliff scenes, the rest of The Good Son was entirely filmed in Massachusetts. The moments on the cliff however were filmed off Lake Superior in Minnesota and was the best possible choice after weeks of location scouting.
And it works wonderfully. I mean, this is the setting for one of the most intense set pieces of the movie, so it needed to work. When Susan is forced to make the decision of who she’s going to save Mark or Henry, it’s a terrifying dilemma. But I mean, he is still an absolute psychopath. So maybe the decision isn’t too difficult.
The Good Son released on September 24, 1993 and took in $12.5 million on its opening weekend. It would end up with over $60.6 million worldwide off a budget of just $17 million. Not a bad result especially given the circumstances that it was an R-rated thriller with horror elements. Not to mention a total departure from Macauley’s family-oriented Home Alone films. During the 90’s, making 60 million worldwide for an R-rated flick was an immense accomplishment and that was due to Macauley’s global status as a box-office darling. The reviews, however, would not be so kind. In fact, everyone’s favorite review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film at a measly 25%. Even still, the film has many fans. Hell, why else would we be featuring it on this show?
The stars of The Good Son have had quite the film careers since. Elijah Wood has consistently been a staple of Hollywood, etching his legacy with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Elijah was always infatuated with the horror genre growing up because his older brother let him watch horror films without their parents knowing. He was happy to develop films for an adult audience while being a kid because he knew other child actors at the time that were solely in funny, kid-oriented movies films. Elijah gravitated towards the serious subject manner in The Good Son. So it’s not a shocker to see what’s he’s gotten up to nowadays… [Maniac]
However, Macauley Culkin’s Hollywood star faded as he got mixed in with substance abuse and disappeared from the Hollywood scene for years until he recently came back and joined American Horror Story, Dollface, and The Righteous Gemstones. It’s nice to see Macauley’s fall from grace get slowly back to his feet. You’d figure that both Elijah Wood and Macauley Culkin hated one another during filming battling it out as the top child actor at the time, but they became best friends during production, playing war with sticks In between takes. They still keep in touch to this day and remain good friends. Their chemistry on-screen is highly believable, and the tension is palpable whenever they come into conflict with one another making their scenes truly memorable.
The Good Son has a more pros than cons and serves as a horror/thriller hybrid. Henry’s intentions are in the same vein as other “innocent looking” killer films such as Bad Seed, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and Mikey. There is a creep factor to Henry, he lurks in the shadows from banisters, doorways, and staircases. He even sets up his own cousin in a game of cat and mouse. By the film’s end you start to wonder Henry’s mindset – was it jealousy that filled his heart with rage and that he was no longer the center of attention by his mother and father? Or was he, like Michael Myers, nothing but pure evil? Even worse is that Henry’s actions mostly take place in the daytime which makes him more of an evil bastard looking to get caught. It rides that fine line of horror/thriller so perfectly because Henry personifies the monsters that are within the horror genre. He might not slash and gash, but he surely knows how to manipulate, lie, torture, and kill like the best of them. Which is why The Good Son is the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw.
A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!