The year was 1993. The biggest and youngest movie star in the world was called Macaulay Culkin and he was everywhere, from TV to the big screen. Three years before Home Alone was widely released, Culkin became the face of young Hollywood. A notable friendship with Michael Jackson put him in the music spotlight as well (which he would continue to this day), and a secondary role in My Girl confirmed he was in the heart of every single moviegoer in the entire world.
Then came Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and the boy took over a world that already recognized who he was: an adorable but mischievous kid who was able to defend homes against idiotic criminals. The blonde starlet dominated whatever medium he appeared in. What most people don’t know is that behind Culkin, his father moved the pieces.
The commercial juggernaut that was the Home Alone sequel was unprecedented. But curiously there was a condition for the boy to appear in that film, as preposterous as it sounds. Kit, his father, set a casting decision as “necessary” for Macaulay to play Kevin: the starring role in a very dark film known as The Good Son.
The stakes were raised to the top. Changing Culkin’s universe would result in changing his image. But 20th Century Fox’s script was insanely dark, and the effect would be greater. A trailer proved the tone of the film was different from what Macaulay did before. One-liners by Culkin as Henry confirmed he would play the villain this time.
Needless to say, people weren’t prepared for this disturbing, R-rated twist on Culkin’s image.
Why Is The Good Son Rated R?
The Good Son tells the story of Mark, a young boy whose mother passes away, and whose father decides to take him to spend winter break with his cousins. His uncle and aunt are welcoming, as well as Henry and Connie, his cousins. Mark has found a family again, but quickly Mark realizes Henry isn’t the kind boy he appears to be. To say he’s violent is an understatement.
The “evil child” theme had been approached in Hollywood before, but not necessarily with familiar faces portraying sociopaths. In The Good Son the idea is taken to a whole other level as Henry delivers a character that’s capable of slicing, dicing, and killing every single living being without a hint of regret. It’s like the villain in 1956’s The Bad Seed or 1992’s Mikey — the violent, mysteriously evil child.
The violence in The Good Son was uncanny, even excessive for some. We understood as an audience that someone aimed to change whatever image we had of Culkin, but it was shocking how the script allowed him to be this malignant. If we add “children in peril” to the formula (with impressive stunt scenes by the way), then the whole film becomes a collection of “reasons why you should hate Macaulay Culkin and his golden smile from now on.”
Films of this nature are rare today. It’s a fact that Hollywood doesn’t take big risks anymore. Perhaps, Culkin’s future after this one would serve as a cautionary tale for how not to progress in Hollywood. No one can say this wasn’t the beginning of the end. People were too shocked to see him in this light. Even critics used this dilemma to trample on the film, making it a commercial success but a flop in the critics’ circle.
The Good Son Explains What Happened to Macaulay Culkin
Between 1993 and 1994, Culkin’s career went downhill. He suddenly disappeared from the public eye and people were concerned about what he would end up doing with his life. Nine years would pass until he appeared in films again. It was a short span, but his golden years would serve as an example of how Hollywood treats and mistreats child actors until they become irrelevant when compared to box office returns. The Good Son was undeniably the spark that would end things.
Ironically, it all had to do with the evil side of his characters, and not with the ultra violence the film displayed. In Home Alone and its sequel, Kevin would do even more violent things but for the sake of comedy. When it was time for thrillers, this was unforgivable. A blatant attempt to change the actor’s image resulted in a film that almost nobody understands, and the industry forgot very quickly. It hasn’t even gained cult status as the film where Hollywood’s biggest star saw his world crumble for the sake of experimentation by studios and his money-thirsty father.
Take, for example, the sequences where Wood and Culkin fight. They are realistic and effective, but this was actually the reason why people rejected them. They simply didn’t like poor Kevin McCallister attacking, and not defending himself, albeit the fact that he was also a sociopath capable of harming people. He just wasn’t saving Christmas this time.
The Good Son is available to stream via VOD and with a Starz subscription, which can be accessed on Hulu, Prime Video, and The Roku Channeel.