The Boy Review
When I saw the initial trailers for "The Boy," I was almost ready to write it off completely. Why would I want to sit through a horror movie about a family that hires a caretaker to look after their son, a son who happens to be a porcelain doll? What kind of shock value could come from such a film? I thought about it though, and there maybe a good reason why horror films are seldom represented in the awards circuits. Logic and realism go every which way in horror films, what really matters is how often and well the movie scares you. Over a decade ago, I never thought that a movie about a haunted video tape that kills you seven days after viewing it would be anything special, and that movie kept me up all night. Even two years ago, I had a ball with "Tusk," which was about a madman who turns a person into a walrus, literally. Heck, there have been three "Human Centipede" movies. Horror taps into primal part of our souls, and how they get there isn't the issue, but the execution is the key.
I felt "The Boy" had at least one foot in the door for simply not being another lazy found footage movie. So I figured I'd give it a try. The film started, and I met Greta (Lauren Cohan) who moves to the United Kingdom to be a nanny in order to leave a bad relationship. She works for Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Diana Hardcastle and Jim Norton), and provides care for their 8-year-old son Brahmes, who is a porcelain doll. At first, Greta thinks this whole set up is some kind of joke. She honestly can't believe her eyes or what she has been given to do, but there is no doubt that the Heelshire's love this doll and they act as any loving parent would towards it. Greta is given specific rules to follow for Brahmes each day, and she most follow his rule-sheet while the Heelshire's go on holiday. At first, Greta does not follow it, she is repulsed by this whole situation. Then she notices strange things begin to occur in the house. Both Greta and the audience begin to wonder, is that doll alive?
Its an odd set up for a movie, and the marketing for the movie has really jammed the idea of a possessed doll down our throats. All I can say to that is endure. Keep watching. "The Boy" heads toward a conclusion I did not see coming. The movie is a great example of when marketing doesn't give away the entire premise of a movie and there are still tricks up its sleeve. I won't give anything away in this review, but one word I'd use to describe "The Boy" is surprised. I don't think the script makes the best use of the reversal at the end, but at least the movie tries. I applaud that the movie reached for something ambitious, especially since you would not be able to tell from its advertising. I really wish more would have been done with the reversal and that was better incorporated into the story being told. Its suffers from a case of "too little, too late" and if it was built on more, I wonder if I'd feel the same way.
The other thing is, "The Boy" is sadly not very scary. Lauren Cohan does a good job driving the movie and keeping things lively. She's just about the only person we see routinely in the movie besides a family grocer played by Rupert Evans, who also does good work. But Cohan really steers the movie, and she does a good job handling the material. Anybody who is a fan of hers thanks to "The Walking Dead" should check her out in this, because she is good. I just wish she had scarier material to work with. There is not a lot of tension built in the movie, no good plays on mood or atmosphere. In fact, I am even having a hard time remembering any real boo scares. I think the movie relied a little too heavily on the creepy-looking doll, even though it wasn't very creepy to begin with. I wish more time was given to really make this movie creepier, scarier, and more disturbing. The movie goes into some jet-black and somber moments, and I wish those moments mattered more. Especially since the movie takes an unexpected turn near the end, there were several opportunities to make this a freaky ride. Honestly, I wish I could have received at least one halfway decent boo scare.
But, "The Boy" could have been a whole hell of a lot worse. The movie aims high, and it has a big heart. In a horror landscape that is riddled with found footage, "The Boy" definitely sticks out as something unique. And with that turn in the end, the stock for the movie goes up a little for me. The only problem is I wanted more scare, and I wanted more with the story line. Its almost like the filmmakers came up with a fairly cool idea for a horror movie then chickened out on it during production. The idea was there, the actors were there, just nothing else was. "The Boy" gets so close to working completely that I wish the whole thing was a wash, because frustrating films like this can sometimes be worse than the garbage we see too often. But I will say this, marketing could learn a thing or to about the add campaign for "The Boy." We need more of that!
FINAL GRADE: C