‘The Grandson’ formally known as ‘American Pets’ is a simple yet clever thriller starring Rhys Wakefield of ‘The Purge’ fame.
The synopsis: ‘High in the hills, among the last remnants of Hollywood's golden age, Tod, 24, and his sister Lani, 22, live a breezy and charmed life in the sprawling mansion of their grandmother Judy, a former movie star now relegated to hosting a dying home shopping show. Tod's carefree and narcissistic existence takes a dark turn when he accidentally (perhaps) shoots Judy, killing her instantly. Desperate to maintain his decadent lifestyle, Tod hatches a diabolical plan to cover-up his Grandma's death, keep her show rolling, and keep the money flowing.’
The film follows Tod’s exploits as he uses his position in high society, as well as his own wits and charm to avoid, not only his original crime, but his whole masterplan crashing down around him.
The thriller element of the film comes through the twists, turns and near misses as Todd builds his house of cards, sometimes by taking advantage of circumstance, but most often by flying by the seat of his pants! Tod’s character is by far the most interesting. He isn’t a psychopath by any means, well not in the typical horror sense anyhow. Self-centred and narcissistic, for sure, but what grabs you most is his sense of entitlement. He doesn’t act out of spite per se, he just doesn’t give a shit about anyone other than himself. Even when he appears to be helping other members of the family benefit from their grandmother’s demise, it’s very clear that it nothing more than a positive offshoot of a wider agenda.
The subtext in the films writing impressed me no end. There is an obvious social commentary about the upper-class lifestyle, and the marionette roles ‘normal’ people play in both Tod’s cover-up and indeed their reluctance to challenge and act. Despite this being an American production, it has a European feel about the way it conducts its character introduction and exposition. Again, this is a big plus point. The film’s main plot gets underway seemingly out of no-where, the characters and context we barely know, relying on the viewers social intelligence to fill in the ‘world’ outside of what is being shown on screen. This, plus the swift editing benefits both in terms of the films overall pace, whilst emphasising the quick decision making needed to keep Tod’s delicately woven scheme together.
The other characters play their parts in the story, and whilst non-are particularly stand out, they all have an equal common theme of being self-absorbed and deliberately negligent, so long as they continue to benefit. The supporting characters, for me at least, gave the film an interesting twist, in that, Tod’s plan is not always that ingeniously hidden (this isn’t a finely crafted thriller full of red-herrings and clever twists) and a lot of the time there is the impression that quite a few people know that he is up to something underhand, even if they don’t know what. They, as with Tod, just don’t care. There is at no point throughout the film a warmth about the characters, its as if all moral are absent in the film, just self-serving ambition.
Overall, for what is essentially quite a straight-forward thriller, the devil is in the details, if you care to look. If you allow yourself to become the fly on the wall in a world where, for the privileged, anything is possible – so long as your conscience is placated by material gain. Its 80-minute run-time might seem brief, but don’t mistake sensible editing and lack of padded exposition for lack of content. ‘The Grandson’ is the perfect festival thriller, and if my review has peaked your interest I encourage you to give it a go.