The Boy (2016)

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*This review contains spoilers*

“An American nanny is shocked that her new English family’s boy is actually a life-sized doll. After she violates a list of strict rules, disturbing events make her believe that the doll is really alive.”

Well… I finally saw The Boy. First off, I will say that for the first 3/4 of this movie, maybe a bit less, I was beginning to think that I might actually like it. The movie is surprisingly well shot and truly well acted, in spite of a premise that is stupid on its face. Not to mention the fact that the doll is pretty effectively designed and delivers some truly creepy moments throughout.

Let’s start things with the premise, because that is truly where this movie falls completely down. There are elements of a far superior film in here, in that I was immediately reminded of House of The Devil. A young girl, a big weird house, and a deeply eccentric couple. However, where House of the Devil had slow-burning suspense and was a genuinely frightening experience, The Boy had a big, creepy, stupid doll and a female protagonist who just couldn’t fight off her “mothering” instincts, because that is still how female characters are written in horror movies.

While the set up is silly, it’s genuinely a creepy setup, as long as you are prepared to suspend some disbelief and accept the premise on its face, then you might even enjoy the beginning of the movie. I found myself feeling creeped out, and even enjoying my experience for a little while. The Boy is surprisingly atmospheric and has some exceptional cinematography from start to finish. The massive house that the film was shot in really helped make the world feel real, and added to the overall creep-factor of the movie.

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What makes it work even more is the fact that the cast put in genuinely great performances, and manage to pull off characters who feel very real, in a world that is very silly. At the lead, you have Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead) as Greta, and she’s genuinely solid in her role. The biggest problem with her character is the way she is written; a woman escaping from an abusive boyfriend who takes on a mothering role with a dummy because she believes it is inhabited by a child, which then reminds her of the child she tragically lost. It feels like a perpetuation of this idea that women must mother, and will mother anything because motherhood, which cheapens her quite a bit, using that background to lend gravitas and emotional punch to her character.

The Boy also stars Rupert Evans  (Hellboy), who is charming and very watchable, and Jim Norton (American History X) and Diana Hardcastle (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as the doll’s parents who almost seem under-used in the movie.

Even with all of that working for it, The Boy succumbs to some pretty serious third act problems, as so many horror movies seem to these days. While so much of what is happening appears to be supernatural, and some things almost need to be explained that way, it seems that this movie, and others like it, just have a hard time committing to that idea, even though it would almost make the movie scarier.  So, when the very much alive son who was presumed dead (and inhabiting the doll) comes out of the wall, wearing a doll’s face, I let out a pretty loud groan. Apparently it had been him all along, moving the doll around the house, and pretending to be a spooky ghost.

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So what are we left with? A well shot, well acted, and reasonably atmospheric movie that just can’t stay on it’s legs long enough to support it’s absurd, and overly silly premise. A good effort, but it misses the mark completely, and sincerely disappointed all around. It was absolutely a step up from director William Brent Bell’s suck-fest that was The Devil Inside.

My Rating: **

 

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