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No, this is not the slow burn indie thriller about the childhood years of a serial killer; you can read my review of that movie here.
Creepy dolls that may or may not be possessed by evil spirits have been a useful trope for horror filmmakers pretty much since the early days of the genre. Just like the creepy clown trope, this cliché feeds on our childhood fears about the possibility behind benign kids' toys or activities becoming evil and turning on us. How many of us woke up in the middle of the night as children and convinced ourselves that one of our toys looked menacing and frightening in the dark? Unless the disturbing doll walks, talks, and has a distinct personality of its own a-la Chucky, it's hard to build an entire feature on a lifeless object, no matter how unsettling it may look, without having the whole concept run out of steam by the time we get to the second act.
The Boy is such a horror project. It would have been perfect for a short, regardless of the fact that its' big plot twist can be seen coming from a mile away. At least then we wouldn't have to sit through a repetitive and dull second act that doesn't add anything to the concept or the story while trying to maintain interest through cheap jump scares. In short form, we'd end up with a Twilight Zone episode that would fit squarely into the show's fifth and final season, when Rod Serling really began to look desperate to include any plot twist.
The paper-thin story is about Greta (Lauren Cohan), an American woman on the run from an abusive relationship, finding work as a babysitter for an affluent British couple's young boy. The only problem is that Brahms, the boy in question, is actually a very unsettling looking doll. But no matter, "his" parents (Diana Hardcastle and Jim Norton. No, not the comedian) wants Brahms to be treated like a real boy, and leave Greta with a complete list of rules that she has to follow while taking care of the doll. As Greta ignores all of these rules, the way pretty much any of us would have, strange occurrences begin to take place in a conveniently gothic house where she's supposed to be the only resident. Eventually, Greta begins to believe that the doll might be alive.
After the initial setup of the premise, the screenplay by Stacey Menear settles into a series of filler jump scares and drawn out PG-13 suspense in order to pad out the second act. The film also loses a lot of credibility during this section by having Greta believe far too easily into the supernatural possibilities of the weird events that happen around her. If she was one of the 17th century puritan characters from The Witch, her gullibility might have made sense, but as a modern 21st century woman, it's a bit hard to swallow and makes the whole ordeal look unintentionally funny.
There are some opportunities for the film to tie its premise to a study on domestic abuse, but Menear and director William Brent Bell value easy and cheap scares over horror that stems from true horrific experiences that a lot of women all over the world have to experience daily.
The cinematography by DP Daniel Pearl takes full advantage of the unoriginal but effective gothic mansion location. This is a film full of stark contrast and a moody, almost grayscale look. The 1080p transfers captures this look perfectly and without any noticeable video noise.
Get ready to keep your fingers on the volume button, because when the jump scares strike, Bell and his sound mixers apparently forget the meaning of the word "restraint". Apart from the insanely highly mixed jump scares; the DTS-HD 5.1 track accompanies the suspenseful, yet mostly drawn out, feel of the film. There's a lot of detail here as far as ambient sounds are concerned, which should put audiences with surround systems into the mood.
We get nada. The Blu-ray comes with a code to redeem a digital copy of the film.
After Annabelle's failure, The Boy further proves that it's near impossible to build a decent horror film, one that's without obvious filler and cheap jump scares, centered on the "creepy doll" trope.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com