"My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" DVD, Blu-ray Review

9/15/2010 Posted by Admin

"My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?"

DVD Movie Review

Directed by Werner Herzog, Written by Herzog and Herbert Golder, 91 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Truly, this is a match made in Heaven. Surreal masters David Lynch and Werner Herzog combine their efforts with the absolutely spellbinding "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done," a twist on the traditional thriller not unlike Herzog's recent "Bad Lieutenant," but this time the brilliant German director takes cues from Lynch (here producing), combining surreal horror, dark comedy, and genre cliches to tell what may be the most fascinating story he has ever told.

The film, based very loosely on a true story, follows Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon, with a crazed performance worthy of Herzog's former muse Klaus Kinski), a suburbanite who murders his overbearing mother and subsequently holes himself up in his house as a detective (Willem Defoe), his girlfriend (Chloe Sevigny), and various other cops and neighbors try to make sense of the sudden murder and Brad's motives. This frame story serves as a background to numerous flashbacks of varied purpose, some explaining Brad's background and trip to Peru (which Herzog has explored before in some of his more prestigious work with Kinski, including "Aguirre" and "Fitzcarraldo"), with others serving as flat-out horror and comedy setpieces (sometimes both).

The simple story is thrust into really epic territory with Herzog's haunting style and Shannon's fantastic performance. Herzog got a great deal of solid work out Nicolas Cage last year, but while Cage was only a shadow of the madness Herzog ordinarily employs in his features, Shannon wholly embodies it. He's done similarly in the immensely underrated "Bug" and in his more nuanced (and Oscar-nominated) performance in "Revolutionary Road," but this is surely the actor's best work yet. But unlike much of Herzog's work, the film is driven just as strongly by its supporting cast, most notably Brad Dourif as Brad's equally-crazed uncle and Sevigny, who is far from unfamiliar with this type of work, having worked several times with Herzog's wunderkind protege Harmony Korine. Along with Dafoe and Grace Zabriskie as Brad's mother, the cast is among the best Herzog has ever put together.

Which is only right, considering this may be Herzog's finest work to date. Equally terrifying and hysterical, he channels the best of his oddball producer's work while injecting plenty of his own distinct brand of horror into the whole affair, and despite Herzog's insistence that the equipment used to film the movie (the ever-popular Red One digital camera), it's one of the most visually gorgeous films he's made, and one of the best uses of digital cinematography yet.

I suppose the worst thing "My Son" could be accused of is style over substance--but to accuse it of such would be to assume terror in itself is without substance, not to mention how successful Herzog is in turning a plot worthy of a typical police procedural on its head and making an uproarious, genre-bending masterwork out of it.

Grade: A

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  1. Rabid Fox said...

    This is one of those under-the-radar films I just found out about a few days ago. It sounds like it could be very good, but I'll have to be patient for it to--hopefully--make out here to the sticks. :)