Movie Review: The Boy
Director: William Brent Bell
Writer: Stacey Menear
Stars: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle
Ah, the creepy doll premise. Fans of Horror will perhaps conjure up images of Chucky or Annabelle (the title film and her appearance in the new classic The Conjuring). It’s a wonderful and fun sub-genre of Horror, but we audiences know that it is also a difficult one to pull off. The initial terror and suspense of The Child’s Play franchise evolved into the irony filled, dirty humor of Chucky movies (fun films, but not scary whatsoever). Annabelle is a creepy, dark-spirited doll fuelled by supernatural forces (and based on a “true story,” of course), but whose shelf life after two films is unknown.
In comes The Boy, whose Horror genre ethos will be revealed to audiences as either new, nuanced, or recycled from the familiar. Will Brahms, the name of the doll in The Boy, reanimate and slash his way through a Victorian house, echoing 1980’s Chucky, or is he a conduit, housing an elusive, angry spirit that not even a capable hiding place could evade? See this movie to find out, for the final act of this film has not been so surprising since Orphan.
Starring the impeccable and beautiful Lauren Cohan (of The Walking Dead fame), The Boy is a slower film, with wonderful scares and inklings of something more ominous to come. The setting, a large manor in the English countryside, is where we meet Cohan’s character Greta – a Montana native searching for a second chance - who is hired as the caretaker to Brahms, who she assumes is a young boy residing in the manor with his parents. Quickly she realizes that all is not well in this English home, for Greta meets Brahms’ parents and ultimately their son, a porcelain doll no larger than a ventriloquist’s. Greta believes this to be a joke, but the humor quickly subsides as her laughter is met with the parents’ somber expressions.
If you are wondering why Greta didn’t just run for the door, the answer is quite simple. As her newly befriended Malcolm (Rupert Evans) reveals – a courier who also works for the family – the parents are kind and pay their help handsomely. It seems even the town goes along with their harmless, albeit bizarre play, concluding the parents could not recover from the loss of the real Brahms, who died nearly two decades earlier. Besides, Greta needs the money, so she decides to honor the parents’ list of demands for how to properly care for “the boy” while the parents go off on holiday.
When the parents leave the manor, Greta ignores the ridiculously long list of demands (read to Brahms daily; give him a kiss goodnight). The neglect of Brahms leads to unsettling occurrences experienced by Greta, who is now in doubt if the doll is in fact alive. We as audiences are unsure, too. But the film does a wonderful job leaving this fact shrouded in mystery. Animated doll? Vengeful spirit? What the heck is going on?
The truth behind Brahms is a satisfying shock for audiences, one that I cannot spoil here. Beyond the suspense and revelation of The Boy, Greta, Brahms, and Brahms’ parents are connected and oppressed by their respective pasts, all of which will not only be revealed by the film’s final act, but will play out in a game of survival that will certainly reanimate the audiences of an otherwise carefully crafted, steady film. It will also force the audience to revisit earlier scenes in memory, and recall that the movie is much creepier than initially thought.
My wife - a fellow Horror aficionado who was sitting beside me in a modestly-filled theater, clenching my arm in a manner of shock and glee during the film’s final scene – shouted the proverbial phrase “What the fuck?” upon Brahms’ true identity. Such a question is a testament (and tantamount!) to a good flick. It got us, and I hope it gets you, too.
Images courtesy of EPK.TV