Son

A lonely diner. A very pregnant woman is dining alone. When a couple of men enter, she leaves rapidly. As she drives her car erratically, she comes to a halt, bleeding. Soon she has given birth to a screaming baby. She doesn’t look too happy about it.

Cut to: the suburbs where Laura lives alone with her 8-year old son, David. She owns their huge house – testament to the huge pay that we know that primary school teachers get. Her best mate Susan lives opposite, also apparently alone, and picks David up from school when Laura goes to her evening class on overcoming trauma.

One evening, Laura is in bed and she hears a noise – presumably David can’t sleep. She calls him in, but the hallway is now empty. She enters his room, and his bed is circled by a group of strange people. Laura bangs on Susan’s door and asks her to call the police, but when they arrive no-one is in David’s room, there’s no sign of any break in, no fingerprints and the doors and windows are securely locked.

One of the visiting policemen is suspicious. The other – “call me Paul” – appears to believe Laura, though he may just be trying to get to know her better. Whatever, she seems to trust him, and tells him that she grew up in a cult, and she’s convinced that the people around David’s bed were cult members, who’d come to seek her out.

David starts throwing up blood, stops eating and drinking and his skin turns red. Laura takes him to the hospital, where the doctors say that he’s definitely ill, but they’ve no idea why. Apparently they’ve tested him for All Known Illnesses and it’s none of them. Then Laura gets it into her head that the doctors and nurses are all cult members, so she smuggles David out.

Having nowhere else to go, they end up at Susan’s, who’s not too pleased and tells them to report back to the hospital. Laura pops out and returns to find Susan sans most of her internal organs. She’s also covered in blood, as is David, who is apparently some sort of vampire-Zombie flesh eater thing. It’s probably time to find somewhere else to stay.

For horror films to work, you either have to accept their general premise – that Damien really is the son of the devil or Regan really is possessed, and we just take this as fact while we deal with the real story of priests losing their faith. Or we see the horror as taking place in the mind of the protagonist – as we see everything from their POV, the bloodfest in front of us is actually happening in their mind and not in the “real” world.

Son tries a little to have it both ways. Laura is clearly emotionally damaged, and we are encouraged to believe that what we see may just be happening in her head. We learn that the cult in which she grew up practised paedophilia and she was in a psychiatric institution for a while. And yet it appears that David really isn’t eating, does meet real doctors, and real people are being eaten up. So, although we see most things from Laura’s POV, there are also some pesky facts out there.

As it happens, a completely unnecessary and disappointing final few minutes seem to make a statement whether any of this “real”, and the film would have been much better if it finished earlier. Nonetheless, it runs at a sufficient pace for the inconsistencies to be not too important, and the acting does make you feel that you are watching real people doing real things.

Well, maybe until Laura starts trying to summon the servants of Lucifer, but by this time she’s gone so far over the edge that if you’re still worrying that she might have slightly lost her hold on reality, you’re looking at a train that left the station long ago. Whether or not the demonic/vampirey things are true, what we are watching is clearly mediated through an unreliable/psychotic narrator.

Whether Son shines any light on the effects of growing up in a cult, religious fundamentalism or serious sexual abuse is a different matter, It doesn’t, but would you really expect this from a film made for the Saturday night popcorn audience? Son does what it sets out to do reasonably well. It doesn’t explain the world, but it keeps our attention from beginning to (nearly) end. If that’s not enough, then you were really after a different film.

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