“Hey, Mark, don’t fuck with me,” 12 year-old Henry (Macaulay Culkin) says to his cousin Mark (Elijah Wood) in The Good Son‘s signature scene. But fuck with him Mark does because Mark knows that evil exists and that Henry’s evil. Henry killed his brother and he tries to kill his sister, Connie (Quinn Culkin), by throwing her onto thin ice. When Mark, whose mother has recently died, decides that Henry’s mother, Susan (Wendy Crewson), is going to be his new mom, Henry gets jealous and tells Mark that he would rather kill Susan than allow her to have another son. Eventually, Mark and Henry both end up dangling from a cliff with Susan holding onto them. Susan has to decide who to save, her evil son or the distant relation that she barely knows. She makes her choice and the camera lingers on the corpse of the less fortunate child on the rocks below. For most mothers, it probably wouldn’t even be a difficult decision. Of course you would save your own child! But Susan has to think about it. Maybe she can see the future and knows that Elijah Wood has the Lord of the Rings to look forward to while Macaulay is destined for something much different.
The Good Son caused a lot of controversy when it came out in 1993, not because it was about a murderous child but because that murderous child was played by the then-biggest star in America. How would people who loved watching Macaulay seriously injure two burglars react to watching Macaulay kill people? The movie actually did well at the box office but it also revealed that the Macaulay Culkin was a limited actor. Elijah Wood was a good actor but Mark still comes across like a little creep. Trying to steal his cousin’s mother? What did he think was going to happen?
Finally, The Good Son was written by Ian McEwan, of all people. In McEwan’s defense, he only wrote the first draft and that was long before Macaulay Culkin was miscast as Henry. Apparnetly, Macaulay’s father and manager, Kit Culkin, demanded that his son be cast as a psycho murderer before he would allow Maccaulay to appear in Home Alone 2. I guess Kit thought making his son look evil would be a good career movie. If only someone had been willing to say, “Hey, Kit Culkin, don’t fuck with the movie.”