February 2, 2016

Movie Review: The Boy (2016)

The Boy. I have to say that title does not really inspire much, does it? It just seems ever so bland. Also, I kept forgetting that was what this movie was called. Whenever I saw listings or mentions of The Boy, I had to stop and think about what the heck it was. I more often thought of it as the movie that tests The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan with being the top billed star in a movie. Whether or not she passed the test, from a box office point of view, I am not sure as I do not know what standards they were judging on. So far as if the movie is any good, well, I am happy to report it is surprisingly good film that I have no qualms recommending.

To be certain, The Boy is not a great film, and seems inspired by any number of other films (Although I am at a loss to think of any titles, except for Tourist Trap, which is not really accurate). It is a movie that does not overreach its simple concept, allowing it to slowly build in atmosphere before unleashing some surprising insanity. It was directed by William Brent Bell, who previously helmed The Devil Inside and Stay Alive. This is his most restrained film and, as it turns out, his most effective. It may feel a touch slow, but it all works as secrets are revealed and the eventual truth is let out. Screenplay duties were handled by Stacey Menear, his first big screen produced script. It also features a nice score from Bear McCreary, some elements hearkening back to his Battlestar Galactica work.

The story tells of Greta (Lauren Cohan), an American who has taken the job as nanny to an older couple’s son in their sprawling manor in England. The trick of the thing is their son is a life size porcelain doll. A doll whose parents treat as a real, living boy. There are rules, such as his bed time, lessons, feeding him, and never leaving him alone. Greta’s reaction is the same that most of ours would be, she laughs. But upon seeing how serious they are, she plays along, she needs the money and time away from the States.

As the movie moves forward, we see her while away her time and getting to know the local grocery store owner/delivery guy, Malcolm (Rupert Evans, Hellboy). He lets her in on some of the stories about the family, their son, Brahms, and the doll that has taken his place. None of it seems all that outlandish, even believable. Still, the longer Greta stays in the house, the stranger things become as the true nature of what is going on is slowly revealed.

I have to admit to being rather impressed with how the movie builds and ultimately plays out. I was expecting a more traditional ghost story type of tale, perhaps a variation on Annabelle. What I got was decidedly different and certainly welcome. I liked how it never overplays its hand. It never gives you too much of the doll, but knows how to keep him always present, and increasingly creepy. Watching Greta change, it is not hard to believe that she may be cracking up. Honestly, the idea of being alone in that house with a creepy doll that seems to move and make noises, while not having any type of technology, no computer, no television, would certainly take a toll on anyone accustomed to modern technological conveniences.

The Boy has a way of lulling you into complacency, almost to boredom, as you wait for the screws to turn and something to happen. I was actually close to writing it off as just another dull movie with a creepy doll, and then it happened. The tumblers fall into place and things happen. Again, not exactly original, I don’t want to build this up to be something it is not, but still, it works, it gets weird. It takes the potential energy of the boredom and gets all kinetic and is it amps up some and things begin to go a little sideways. Definitely effective and certainly worth checking out.


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