The Good Son vs. Orphan or Esther vs. Henry!

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 12: Isabelle Fuhrman arrives at NYLON and BCBGeneration's Annual Young Hollywood May Issue Event at HYDE Sunset: Kitchen + Cocktails on May 12, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 12: Isabelle Fuhrman arrives at NYLON and BCBGeneration's Annual Young Hollywood May Issue Event at HYDE Sunset: Kitchen + Cocktails on May 12, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images) /

Not all kids are good, and films like The Good Son and Orphan really drive that point home. It’s one thing to worry about one becoming a criminal as a grownup, but what if they’re already downright sinister as kids? Both films look at children who are worse than originally assumed, and both have tricks up their sleeves. So, when push comes to shove, is The Good Son‘s Henry tougher to beat/outsmart than Orphan’s Esther? That’s what we’re here to find out!

The Good Son

Before we fully dive into Henry vs. Esther, let’s look at what Joseph Ruben’s The Good Son is about (then we’ll do the same with Orphan). So here are the basics: When Henry (Macaulay Culkin) shows an interest in becoming pals with his cousin, Mark (Elijah Wood), it at first seems normal enough.

However, Henry soon displays a bad side and, yes, an uncomfortable fixation upon his power over life and death. Not wanting to walk that darkened path, Mark gradually ends up fearing him, and even decides he’ll have to defend Henry’s family – Wallace (Daniel Hugh Kelly), Connie (Quinn Culkin), and Susan (Wendy Crewson). Henry’s the kind of boy you’ll want to stay away from if you know what’s good for you.

Obviously, The Good Son is largely about the loss of childhood innocence, but also about anxiety about who moves in with as a child with little say in such matters. Now, “The Good Son” doesn’t show how Henry acts in school, so we don’t know how dark and sinister he is in that environment (does he typically wear a mask of goodness, or is he more of an outright bully?).

However, we see Mark doesn’t feel like himself and we get a sense that, if Mark was less strong-willed, he might begin to fantasize about things he didn’t before, such as violence. In fact, Henry regularly tries to trick his parents into thinking that Mark is actually dangerous and unstable after his own mother’s death.

The Good Son is a good movie!

This is another instance where for whatever reason, the critics just didn’t like the movie. The Siskel and Ebert types criticized it for depicting children in peril, which is a bit silly. When you watch a movie like this, you know right away what you’re getting into, right? If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know the basic premise is that at least one of the kids is bad. It’s a bit like eagerly attending an annual Fourth of July cookout, where all your relatives congregate, then getting upset by kids playing with firecrackers and sparklers.

Anyway, as a fair-minded viewer watches The Good Son, they might at least see merit in Henry’s struggle to lift the veil and reveal what kind of monster Henry really is. Also, let’s not forget that other decent horror films, such as Cujo, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist, also show children in danger, and those films are pretty well-loved and respected in the horror/thriller genre. I

n fact, one might also wonder why someone becomes such a more valid target once they reach 18. It seems people spending time lamenting such depictions forget that vulnerable people in peril is where the dramatic tension comes from.

Orphan and Esther

Jaume Collet-Serra’s Orphan is not 100% identical to The Good Son but it does a few things quite similarly. (I have written a more full review of this film here, if interested.) The film begins with the strained marriage between Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard).

Since their child died at birth, the couple has all but been sleeping in separate beds. However, John and Kate eventually reconcile enough to take another child into their family, a Russian girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), who charmed them at the orphanage.

How do things work out for the new family? Well, it turns out much of her personality was just an act, and her “good little girl” routine covered up some dark, disturbing, shocking truths. So, rather than taking Esther to a library for the first time, Kate and John have to deal with the first time Esther breaks somebody’s bones. Also, Esther ends up being a little bit older than expected…

The Matchup: Who wins in a battle between Esther and Henry?

I hate to go with the obvious, perhaps anticlimactic choice.  In my book, Esther is the likely winner here. If you watch both films, either back-to-back or far apart, you may very well agree. This is not to say Henry has zero tricks up his sleeves or isn’t capable of sadism and cruelty, but Esther simply takes it to a whole other level. She is also more often outrightly physically violent than Henry, who is really more of a skilled manipulator onscreen than a battle-ready brat.

Then, of course, you have Esther’s advantage of experience. Henry is intelligent, perhaps beyond his years, but Esther just has more fighting spirit. If Henry were to win, it would probably involve his cold, calculating nature vs. Esther’s more hotheaded personality. Then again, it’s not like Esther doesn’t know how to manipulate people, so even on this point, Henry doesn’t have a significant edge!

I am absolutely open to alternative views, and there are possibly angles and scenarios I could be missing.  Still, I can’t help but think Esther has plenty of Henry’s cunning plus more tenacity.   In fact, Orphan is perhaps more of an outright horror film than The Good Son, which is more of a coming-of-age thriller.  Really, this matchup is intended as a fun piece, either way.  It’s definitely not worth getting twisted into pretzels over!

What are your thoughts on The Good Son vs. Orphan or Esther vs. Henry? Let us know in the comments!

Next. 10 examples of police in horror films. dark