Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, Wendy Crewson, David Morse, Daniel Hugh Kelly|
This film has high production values and features two of my favorite early ’90s child actors, Elijah Wood (“Forever Young”) and Macauley Culkin (“Home Alone”); but Culkin is cast against type as a preteen psycho. Although psycho films have become all too common, those with sub-adult central characters are the most disturbing.
Mark Evans (Wood) loses his mother to illness; then his business exec father has to leave him for a few weeks with an aunt and uncle, Wally and Susan Evans, on the other side of the country. It seems like a good arrangement, because Mark and his cousin Henry (Culkin) are about the same age and can keep each other company. The parents are way out of touch with what Henry is really like and what he’s teaching Mark to do. The first things we see—sneaking smokes, breaking windows in a railroad supply building—are (unfortunately) typical of boys that age. But then they graduate to stuff like cruelty to animals and even causing an accident on the freeway. Mark backs off from these activities and eventually tries to tell the grownups what’s going on, but no one will listen.
Family resemblance is achieved by having Culkin’s real-life sister Quinn and brother Rory play his on-screen sister and brother (the latter only in a photo, since his character is deceased). Henry is a textbook psycho: he’s fascinated with death; he has a false sweet nature with feigned emotions; he charms and fools everyone (even a psychiatrist) and successfully shoves all blame onto someone else. it’s an uncomfortable fact, but such people (adults and children) do exist. As the film develops, we wonder: Is it possible that Henry has such a severe case of Antisocial Personality Disorder that he could murder family members out of jealousy?
Content: Although the disturbing premise of a young psychopath is handled in more a serious than an exploitative style, there are plenty of standard movie devices like last-second rescues. Mark, who blames himself for his mother’s death, imagines that his mother has come back as his aunt; but this isn’t an occult element, it’s just Mark’s way of coping. There’s some profanity, including Culkin using f*, and some violence plus the constant threat of violence. And the ending is a literal as well as a figurative cliffhanger. If you connect with films emotionally, you may want to skip this one or at least not watch it late at night.
The Evanses seem like good parents; there’s no hint of what they may have done to foster Henry’s condition. Henry says something like: “I used to be scared. Until I figured out I can do anything.” That implies that he thought he was denied something and he “adapted” by becoming cold and clinical. Many real-life psychopaths are formed in infancy, due to lack of bonding or a perception that their needs aren’t being met; but their strong antisocial behavior often begins to show up around puberty. If diagnosed early, they can be helped—either by some radical therapies that defuse their rage and reassert authority over them (as described in High Risk: Children Without a Conscience by Dr. Ken Magid and Carole McKelvey), or better yet by finding life in Jesus and having the Fatherhood of God take the place of whatever they missed out on with their Earthly parents.