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Film / The Good Son

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The Good Son is a 1993 thriller film starring Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. The film was directed by Joseph Ruben, previously known for such films as The Stepfather (1987) and Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), and based on a script by acclaimed novelist Ian McEwan, which was rewritten by others due to Executive Meddling.

It is about Henry Evans (Culkin), a psychopathic boy terrorizing his cousin, Mark (Elijah Wood). Mark tries incredibly hard to convince his family that Henry is psychotic and evil, a fact that should be noticed even if you're three miles away. Mark continually tries to stop Henry from getting worse, only to have Henry make him look worse at every turn...

Compare with The Bad Seed, to which this movie bears more than a passing resemblance.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Really, all the signs are there but not one adult sees how off Henry is. When Mark points this out, he is labeled the crazy one. Even a child psychiatrist refuses to believe that Henry is evil, and the latter actually manipulates her successfully.
    • Mark's father leaving him with relatives so he can go on a business trip. Immediately after his son's mother died. Even worse, Mark's father doesn't seem to take Mark's report about Henry's cruel nature seriously because we never see him return from his business trip after this.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Henry treats Connie as this. However, it is because he wants to kill her. Connie is actually very nice and friendly to other people, such as Mark.
  • Asshole Victim: Henry.
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  • Ax-Crazy: Henry. He killed his younger brother because he had been playing with one of Henry’s toys. He causes traffic accidents on the highway, shoots a dog with a nail gun and tries to kill his sister all For the Evulz and finally tries to kill his family after they try to send him to a mental institution.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Henry shoots and kills a dog with a nail crossbow.
  • Beyond Redemption: The murder-suicide attempt by Henry on himself and Mark is what finally convinces Susan that her son can't be helped.
  • Big Bad: Henry.
  • Big Brother Bully: Even before he tries to kill his sister, Henry is rude towards Connie. He even held her hand on the ice rink just so that killing her would be easier, and it's not like Connie was expecting that anyway.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Connie is nice, especially when compared with her brother Henry. She does what it takes to try to help Mark cope with the loss of his mother, she even sides with Mark after the hide and seek game. Mark in return gets along better with Connie, reading her bed time stories, helping her with puzzles and slamming Henry against the wall for hurting her.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mark tackles Henry when he tries to throw a big rock on his own mother, Susan, while she dangles off the edge of a cliff.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Henry is dead and Susan and Mark both survive the experience, but Mark is left wondering what would happen if Susan had to make the choice again. And there's the obvious mental scarring. The ending basically leaves you with the implication that there will be many hard years ahead, particularly for Susan.
  • Book-Ends: The movie opens and closes on Mark standing on a large rocky hill looking into the distance.
  • Bowdlerization: In the UK cut of this movie, the scene of Henry throwing a dummy off a bridge onto a road and causing a multiple-car pile-up was edited (in one of many examples of UK censors getting rid of scenes featuring dangerous actions that can easily be imitated in real life, mostly fight moves, destructive pranks, ingesting chemicals, and tooling around with sharp objects, electricity, or fire).
  • Cassandra Truth: No one believes Mark when he tries to warn everyone how dangerous his cousin is.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Well, more like Chekhov's Cliff.
  • Creepy Child: Guess who?
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Henry actually manipulates Mark's psychologist, who should obviously be capable of telling how a psychologically disturbed child with no empathy acts.
  • Deconstruction: Henry can be viewed as a deconstruction of Macaulay Culkin's most famous role, Kevin McCallister- A Wise Beyond Their Years kid that can outsmart and manipulate grown adults, creates homemade contraptions, and derives enjoyment from hurting people. With Kevin it's played for comedy and his victims are criminals, but with Henry it's played without the comedy and to its logical conclusion: Such a kid would realistically be a sociopath, it wouldn't take much for that kid to graduate to murder, and he would target anyone for any reason (perceived slights, jealousy, for fun, etc.).
  • Disney Villain Death: Henry. We only see the aftermath of his fall onto the rocks after Susan pulls Mark up and they both look down.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The reason Henry drowned his brother in the bath was that he had Henry's rubber duck. Henry then kept the duck as a kind of trophy.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Something that enhances Henry's Creepy Child status.
  • Enfant Terrible: Henry.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Henry Evans completely averts this trope, in that he actually attempts to kill his mother, Susan.
  • Evil Counterpart: As seen in Deconstruction and Spiritual Antithesis, Henry can be viewed as one to Kevin McCallister. He is also one to Mark in-universe.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Henry may look like a nice guy in the outside, but he's a sociopath in the inside.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Henry initially projects an easygoing, friendly image, but he is a manipulative, crazy monster.
  • For the Evulz: This is pretty much the core of Henry's philosophy: For people to rid themselves of morals so that they can kill and terrorise for simple thrills and fun. And he reflects this philosophy in his own actions throughout the movie.
  • Gilligan Cut: A pretty depressing example occurs at the beginning, when Mark is sitting by the bed of his terminally ill mother, repeating desperately that she won't die because he won't let her. Then it cuts to her funeral.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Mark wears a blue jacket and Henry wears a red jacket.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The first sign of Henry's true nature is that he smokes and gets Mark to smoke as well.
  • Hate Sink: Henry tries to kill his own family and never shows any remorse over his actions, making him basically a textbook example of this trope.
  • Hollywood Density: Henry tries to kill his sister by hurling her onto thin ice, where she immediately falls through. However, several adults trying to save her easily walk on the ice and need massive axes to chip it open mere seconds later.
  • Idiot Ball: It's the only reason the adults don't see the obvious malicious nature of Henry.
  • Jerkass: Henry, which is actually an understatement.
  • Karmic Death: In the climax, Henry tries to kill his mother by shoving her off a cliff. He's the one who ends up falling from it - by her hand.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Henry is a very disturbing and frightening example.
  • Kill the Cutie: Subverted. Henry attempts to kill Connie by throwing her onto thin ice. She's saved from drowning, but she ends up in the hospital.
  • Lack of Empathy: Henry for the umpteenth time. In particular when he asks Mark about how his mother looked when she died and described how his baby brother looked and felt as a corpse.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Henry shoves his mother off a cliff and tries to finish her off with a rock to break her attempts to climb back up. Susan manages to pull herself back up just as Mark attacks Henry and both boys go over the side, forcing her to try and save them by catching them.
  • Nice Guy: Mark and Connie Evans. Both of them are great cousins toward each other and former did as much as he could to protect the latter from Henry.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Make one guess.
  • No Endor Holocaust: After causing a massive car crash, dialogue between Mark and Henry implies that Henry only could have killed somebody, but actually didn't.
  • Novelization: By Todd Strasser, who also novelized the first three Home Alone movies.
  • Offing the Offspring: Susan ultimately has to choose which child will live when she can only rescue one...and she lets Henry die.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims: One of the first signs of Henry's sociopathy is when he tells Mark what Richard's corpse looked like.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mark's mother dies at the start of the film, and his father is never seen again after leaving Mark with his aunt and uncle.
  • Parental Substitute: Susan becomes this for Mark over the course of the movie.
  • Precision F-Strike: Yes, The Home Alone kid really did say the F-word that rhymes with "duck"
  • Sadist: Henry shows this trait multiple times throughout the movie.
  • Sadistic Choice: The climax of the film depicts Susan having to choose whether to save Mark or Henry from falling off a cliff. Thankfully, she picks the right one.
  • Sarcastic Title: If the son in question is Henry.
  • Scary Flashlight Face: Yes, Henry does this too at one point.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Henry tries this on Susan in the end. It backfires on an epic scale.
  • Shout-Out: When they meet for the first time, Henry gives Mark a white mask made of paper and glue.
  • The Sociopath: Henry is a textbook example of one.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Home Alone. Both films star Macaulay Culkin as an intelligent kid with great ingenuity that delights in causing pain. While Home Alone is a slapstick comedy that portrays said kid as a hero that (violently) defends his home from burglars, The Good Son is a thriller where said kid is the villain - an amoral sociopath that terrorizes people for fun and tries to murder his own family members.
  • Suicidal "Gotcha!": After Susan finally figures out that Henry was behind Richard's death, he runs away and tricks her into believing he's jumped off a cliff. When she's looking for him, he runs out from behind some bushes and shoves her over the edge, setting up the film's climax.
  • There Are No Therapists: There is in fact a therapist in the movie; she's here to help Mark get over his grief of losing his mother. However, despite her professional training, she thinks Mark's behavior and ramblings about his cousin being is evil is just a way to get attention. She also fails to recognize Henry as a manipulative monster who doesn't have any shred of empathy.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Again, the adults who can't seem to wrap their heads around just how genuinely screwed up Henry is. This includes a child psychologist, by the way.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Henry has this in spades.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Henry was about to murder his mother with gleeful confidence that no one will stop him from commiting any evil, but when Mark jumps in and tackles him, thus ruining his murder attempt, you can tell through his fight with Mark that he is absolutely furious and enraged.
    Henry: I'm gonna kill you! I'M GONNA KILL YOU!!
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Henry pulls this when Uncle Wallace comes in to discover Mark looking like he's going to kill Henry after Henry indirectly implies to Mark that he will kill Susan next.


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