The One-Line Summary: After the traumatic death of his mother, and the sudden need for this father to travel on business out of the country, 12-year-old Mark Evans (Elijah Wood) it taken to his his aunt and uncle’s home on an rocky-coast-rimmed island in Maine where he meets his cousins Connie (Quinn Culkin) and Henry (Macaulay Culkin), of whom Henry is about the same age and makes Mark feel right at home playing games and showing him around the town until he hints at a dark side, obsessed with death and eventually becoming increasingly violent and psychotic, convincing Mark that people are in danger. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT IN EFFECT
The Two-Line Blurb: Casting Macaulay Culkin as a mentally disturbed child was a bold step after the success of Home Alone and Home Alone 2 as audiences had fallen in love with the precocious little kid who could outsmart the adults, but were greatly put off by this deeply sadistic portrayal of a mean-spirited child who commits horrific acts of violence. Painfully unwatchable, the stars are too young and act too old and it feels like a gimmick right from the start, never being anything more that one terrible moment after the other where Henry grows ever more malicous.
The Three-Line Set-up: Henry’s mother Susan (Wendy Crewson) and father Wallace (Daniel Hugh Kelly) are good people who are also dealing with death as their baby son recently died, which Henry suggests to Mark that he may be the reason why, and because Susan is taking to Mark so well, even threatens to Mark that he will kill her so she can’t be closer to him. Susan suspects Henry may have killed his own brother when she discovers a rubber duck that was once his but was given to Richard, which Henry insinuates wasn’t fair and then attacks his mother in attempting to retrieve it. Henry eventually runs off but later, asks his mother to go for a walk, which Mark takes to mean that he is going to murder her.
The Four-Line Moment: Mark is absolutely right as Henry leads his mother into the woods and just about confesses to killing Richard, but then runs away when she tells him that he needs professional help only to lead her to a rocky cliff’s edge where he promptly pushes her over, though she manages to cling to a jutted rock. Mark shows up and the two boys begin to wrestle and roll along the edge as Susan scurries back up to the rim and reaches the boys just as they roll over the jagged lip, catching the boys, one in each hand, now dangling hundreds of feet over a rock-strewn shore. Both begin to slip and she struggles to pull but they are too heavy and while they plead for help, she is forced to choose and let’s her son fall as she grabs Mark just before he plummets away. Appallingly bad, the entire finale to this dreadful film infuriates as it solves its dilemma in a cheap cop out rather being remotely smart or even logical, shamefully playing it out like a bad slasher horror film ending.
The Five-Word Review: Even Richie Rich is better.