GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Ivan Kavanagh.
Starring Andi Matichak, Emile Hirsch, Luke David Blumm, Cranston Johnson, Blaine Maye.
Horror/Thriller, US/UK/Ireland, 98 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray via Acorn Media on 11th October 2021.
Satanic cults, killer children, smitten cops and a did-she-or-didn’t-she-do-it murder plot are the main ingredients of SON, the latest Shudder Original movie to get a Blu-ray release from Acorn Media, and whilst we have seen something of a glut of escaping-from-cults movies over the past few years SON does have a flavour all of its own thanks to a some distinctive camera angle and lighting choices plus an extremely creepy atmosphere.
SON begins with a traumatised Laura (Andi Matichak) giving birth in her car whilst shouting that she doesn't want the baby. Bit late by then to be honest, but when we flash forward a few years we discover Laura is living a very happy life with her young son David (Luke David Blumm) but when she goes into David’s room one night and sees a group of people surrounding his bed things start to escalate, firstly with David falling ill with a mysterious disease and also with Laura believing that she and David are being targeted by a Satanic cult that she escaped from several years ago.
Naturally, Laura confides all of this in kindly police officer Paul (Emile Hirsch) who has to balance his blossoming feelings for her with the fact that it appears Laura is murdering people as she and David go on the run to escape their past.
Of course, details are revealed and the plot twists and turns in ways that aren't always as unpredictable as the filmmakers probably hope but the committed performances from the cast and Ivan Kavanagh’s confident direction combine to make SON something of a dark treat for those who like their horror a little less reliant on jump scares and heavier on the brooding menace that comes with telling a more cerebral story than your average crowd-pleasing multiplex filler.
Andi Matichak proves that she is more than just Laurie Stode’s teenage granddaughter (note – she’s 27) and plays young mother Laura brilliantly, balancing her character’s various problems and making Laura sympathetic throughout, even when it looks like she may not be quite the victim she thinks she is. Offset that with Luke David Blumm’s whiny performance – which, to be fair, is forgivable seeing what his character has to go through – and his cherubic smile, both of which combine to make him quite irritating when you should be feeling bad for him. Nevertheless, child performances in these movies are notoriously hit-and-miss and Blumm does at least seem happy to be in a horror movie when he gets interviewed in the bonus features.
But the real star of the movie is Ivan Kavanagh’s knack for making such a low-budget production so effective in creating such an unsettling atmosphere, his neon lighting, framing and use of shadows helping to create an uneasy aura amongst the drama but with a glossy look that adds a layer of sheen to the short bouts of violence that appear on the screen, and when it gets messy SON gets very messy thanks to some convincing and gruesome practical effects.
Despite getting off to a slow and slightly muddled start SON does deliver the Satanic scares in a way that very few contemporary mainstream movies – and Shudder Originals especially – do, mixing in modern filmmaking techniques with obvious nods to bygone classics such as THE OMEN and THE EXORCIST and not making it look like a homage or a total rip-off. When it gets creepy SON does make the senses tingle and the goriest parts are fleeting but they hit hard, and despite its story not being wholly original it is engrossing and, ultimately, one of the most satisfying entries in the demonic horror genre for some time. Let’s see if the upcoming INSIDIOUS 5 can conjure up something this effective.