A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the ironically titled The Good Son is an extremely tense and scary 1993 thriller that borders on the verge of horror. The twist here is the notion that a child can embody murderous evil. Despite the youth of the cast, younger viewers may find the boy's actions too disturbing. A woman's death by illness and a child's death by drowning are mentioned. Someone is pushed off a cliff and a dog is shot with a homemade crossbow. The dog's death is heard but not seen. A boy holds a scissor to another boy's neck. It's implied that a boy has poisoned his family's food. Expect to hear "f--k" and "hell."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE GOOD SON is Henry (Macaulay Culkin), a violent child who hides his disturbing desire to kill with politeness and seemingly sensible behavior. Dramatic tension is constant as viewers contend with the threat he poses while his parents have no idea about the destruction he's already caused and his plans for more dangerous antisocial behavior. The boy puts on an act of sweetness and empathy but at his core he's cruel, unfeeling, and murderous. As he lays groundwork to blame his crimes on his visiting cousin Mark (Elijah Wood), he makes the case that no adults will believe stories of what he's done. Henry argues that instead, such claims will be treated as vindictive lies and get the tattletale in trouble. Mark sees no way out except to try to defend and rescue Henry's parents and sister from the threat Henry poses to them. Spoiler alert: After an unrelenting 87-minute's worth of tension and worry, it may be reassuring to know that, at the last minute, Henry's evil is revealed and resolved, albeit violently.
Is it any good?
The Good Son is a well-constructed thriller that achieves sustained tension by means of deft direction, sharp plotting, and excellent performances, especially by two child actors, Culkin and Wood. Wendy Crewson as Susan, Mark's aunt and Henry's mother, gives a persuasive performance as a grieving parent still trying to give her love and support to her remaining children. Culkin was 13 at the time the movie was released but looks far younger, and Wood was 12. Despite the draw of young performers, some teens may find this too intense.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what to do if a family member has mental problems. What would you do if you learned that someone close to you had mental health issues that caused the person to be violent?
How does this movie create tension? Did you find yourself hoping that adults would learn the truth about Henry?
What's the appeal of scary movies?