The Good Son is a 1993 American psychological horror film directed by Joseph Ruben and written by English novelist Ian McEwan. It stars Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, Wendy Crewson and David Morse. It follows a young boy who stays with his aunt and uncle and befriends his cousin, a boy of the same age who begins showing increasing signs of violent and psychopathic behavior.
12-year-old Mark Evans has recently experienced the death of his mother, Janice. Heading for a business trip to Tokyo, Mark's father, Jack, drives Mark to the home of his uncle Wallace and aunt Susan in coastal Rock Harbor, Maine where he will stay during the winter break. Mark is reintroduced to his extended family, including his cousins Connie and Henry. Mark and Henry get along at first and Henry seems to be nice and well-mannered. However, Henry displays an abnormal fascination with death and his talk of the death of Mark's mother and that of his deceased younger brother Richard, makes Mark feel uneasy.
Henry begins to display psychopathic behavior, about which Mark is unable to tell Wallace and Susan due to Henry's dark threats. One of Henry's violent actions is throwing a dummy off a bridge and on to the highway, causing a massive vehicle pileup. Later, Henry plans to kill Connie. Afraid that something might happen to her, Mark spends the night in her room. The next morning, Mark awakens to find Henry has taken Connie ice skating. At the pond, Henry purposely throws Connie toward thin ice. The ice collapses and Connie nearly drowns but she is rescued and taken to the hospital. Despite not believing Mark initially, Susan becomes suspicious and sitting in the dark, out of view, is able to interrupt Henry when he visits Connie's room, planning to suffocate her. Susan finds a rubber duck that Henry has hidden in the shed. It had once belonged to Richard and was with him in the bathtub the night he drowned, after which it went missing. When Susan confronts Henry, he coldly reminds her that the toy had belonged to him before it had been Richard's. Henry flips his demeanor and kindly asks for the duck back but Susan refuses. Henry tries to take it from her and after a violent tug-of-war, he snatches the duck and runs to the cemetery where he throws it down a well.
As Susan and Mark grow closer, Henry insinuates he will kill Susan rather than let Mark continue to develop a relationship with her. When a fight breaks out between the two boys, Wallace locks Mark in the den. Henry asks a suspicious Susan to go for a walk with him, while Mark escapes the den and chases after them. Susan confronts Henry, asking him if he killed his brother. Henry confesses that he did kill his brother by sarcastically replying, "What if I did?" Horrified by her son's true nature, Susan tells Henry that he needs help but Henry flees into the woods, possibly fearing he will end up in prison instead. Susan gives chase and upon arriving at a cliff, Henry shoves her over the edge. As Susan dangles precariously, Henry picks up a large rock he intends to throw down at her but Mark intervenes and tackles Henry. They fight and Henry viciously tries his best to kill Mark. Susan manages to pull herself up on to the clifftop and is just in time to dive forward and grab hold of the boys as they roll over the edge. Lying flat on the rock she hangs on to both boys, one in each hand. Henry holds on with both hands but Mark's one-handed grip begins to slip. With only enough strength to save one of them, Susan, realizing the malevolence in Henry's nature, reluctantly releases him and he falls to his death. Susan pulls Mark up from the ledge and they look down upon Henry's corpse on the rocks below, before it is washed away into the ocean and they both share an emotional embrace.
When Mark returns home to Arizona, he reflects upon Susan's choice to save him instead of Henry and wonders if she would make the same choice again but knows it is something he will never ask her.
- Elijah Wood as Mark Evans. A 12-year-old boy from Arizona and the protagonist of the film. After his mother passes away, he is sent to Maine to stay with his aunt and uncle while his father is away on a business trip in Tokyo, Japan's capital city.
- Macaulay Culkin as Henry Evans, Mark's psychopathic cousin.
- Wendy Crewson as Susan Evans, Mark's aunt and Henry's mother.
- David Morse as Jack Evans, Mark's father and Wallace's younger brother.
- Daniel Hugh Kelly as Wallace Evans, Mark's uncle, Jack's older brother and Henry's father.
- Jacqueline Brookes as Alice Davenport, a child psychologist.
- Quinn Culkin as Connie Evans, Henry's little sister.
- Ashley Crow as Janice Evans, Jack's wife and Mark's mother
Following the completion of his novel The Child in Time, English novelist Ian McEwan was invited by 20th Century Fox to write a screenplay "about evil - possibly concerning children." McEwan recalled, "The idea was to make a low budget, high class movie, not something that Fox would naturally make a lot of money on." Despite being well received, the end result was deemed insufficiently commercial by the parties that commissioned it and it floated around Hollywood until being discovered by independent producer Mary Ann Page. Enthusiastic about the script, originally sent to her as a writing sample, Page tried to get the project off the ground for three and a half years. The film was briefly set up at Universal Studios, during which Brian Gilbert was attached as director. In 1988, Michael Klesic was originally cast in the role of Henry Evans. The film was soon after put on hold due to a lack of funding. Following the successes of Home Alone and The Silence of the Lambs, which respectively demonstrated the appeal of both a movie about kids and of an "extreme thriller," Fox itself chose to revisit the project, which they now saw as viable. Director Michael Lehmann (Heathers) became attached, Laurence Mark was appointed as a co-producer and McEwan was called in for rewrites. Mary Steenburgen was cast as Susan and Jesse Bradford had replaced Klesic as Henry because he had grown too old to play the part. McEwan was optimistic about the project and by November 1991, sets were being built in Maine for a production that would cost approximately $12 million. This progress was suddenly interrupted when Kit Culkin, Macaulay Culkin's father and manager, at the time a notoriously influential force in Hollywood due to the child's stardom, wanted his son to star in the film. Wishing to prove Macaulay's capacity in a dark role, he made his part in The Good Son a condition for his appearing in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Fox agreed enthusiastically due to Culkin's bankability. As the movie was originally scheduled to shoot at the same time as Home Alone 2, the start date for The Good Son was pushed back for a year, making Steenburgen no longer available and having her replaced by Wendy Crewson but also enabling Elijah Wood's involvement. Director Lehmann and producer Mark conflicted with the imposition, leading both to leave the project. The demanding Culkin would go on to insist that his daughter Quinn receive a role in the film and vetted replacement director Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy). Furthermore, the budget had risen to an estimated $20 million. McEwan found himself performing further rewrites that continued to simplify the story to satisfy Ruben's comparatively mainstream tastes and was ultimately unceremoniously removed from the project altogether when another screenwriter was commissioned, Ruben's frequent collaborator David Loughery. Despite this, McEwan was awarded sole writing credit in arbitration when he contested a shared credit.