A widower leaves his young son in the hands of his brother as he takes time out to get over his wife's death. Unfortunately his brother's son takes a dislike to his newly introduced cousin, after feeling deprived of attention, so much so that he attempts to kill him.
There is, of course, something quite satisfying in legitimately disliking Macaulay Culkin, and here, after a series of cutie-pie roles, the uberpygmy at last gives us the chance, donning the "nasty" mantle as the death-obsessed infant intent on nailing rival munchkin Elijah Wood.
It all begins with Jack (Bill Clinton-lookalike Morse), who, shortly after the death of his wife, is obliged to fulfil a two-week business engagement in Tokyo, thus forcing him into an awful dilemma. Does he a) palm his only son Mark (Wood) off on local friends/ relatives, or b) drive 3,000 miles to a craggy outpost in New England and deposit the infuriatingly doe-eyed nipper with the estranged brother who he hasn't seen for ten years? Given that this is a camp thriller, the answer is obvious; as is the reaction of Mark's cousin Henry (Culkin), who after initially extending the hand of friendship to the poor little mite, throws a major wobbler when he jealously perceives the interloper to be receiving the better of his parents' affections. And thus what starts out as a little bit of harmless tormenting escalates into all sorts of macabre pranks, like dangling Mark out of a treehouse and throwing life-like dummies in the path of passing motorists.
"Accidents will happen," squeaks Henry, screwing his face up and threatening Mark with something far worse if he blubs. Mark must, of course, fight back and, inevitably, there is a dark secret that motivates Henry's evil shenanigans. Herein lies the problem, for in driving the plot to its obvious conclusion i.e. the "good son" overcoming the "evil son" the protagonists are required to think and act like adults. And while it's difficult at the best of times to be sympathetic towards a bunch of American brats, when you add to the mix namby-pamby parents and a silly cliff-top climax, the end result is devoid of tension and often laughable. A good clip round the ear would have sorted out all this nonsense a long time ago.
We were so used to seeing Macaulay Culkin playing the cute kids that it was shocking to see him playing the bad guy. Although the idea was in the right place, it's a shame the material wasn't more convincing or even more interesting. This thriller can't decide if it's a childrens thriller meant for adults or an adult thriller meant for kids, but ends up entertaining no-one.