It’s not the first time we’ve seen a doll become the disturbing spotlight of horror films, yet writer Stacey Menear and director William Brent Bell bring audiences a few fresh innovative twists throughout the 2016 theatrical release, ‘The Boy,’ separating it from the rest.
Let me begin at the end, but with no spoilers as usual. At the culmination of ‘The Boy’ I felt a genuinely real chill sent through my body, lasting not only a mere second or two, but a couple of minutes as Bell maneuvered so secretly, applying no haste to his techniques of bringing Menear’s vision to the big screen. The initial angles and pans revealed the right amount of vague visuals to nearly stun the audience.
I can say with utmost sincerity that a sequence from a film hasn’t had that type of effect on me in quite some time. In an oversupplied industry, it’s easy to become callus to frights, ghouls and chills, however with Bell’s teasingly terrifying succession brought life and hope back to a truly effective and under-applied method of frightening an audience.
Unfortunately, the summit of ‘The Boy’ doesn’t quite make up for all the countless close-ups of Brahms (the doll) and the border-line boredom that creates. Although, looking at it from the perspective of character foundations and values, an argument could be made that the number of shots like that were necessary for the twist to be as effective as it was. I would have rather seen more eerie close ups of the decorum of the house, which could have bulked up the fear factor.
The story is simple, American citizen, Greta (Lauren Cohan) travels to England and applies as a nanny for the son of a British family, but the “son” is a ceramic doll, the size of an eight year old child. Greta is running away from something and this job acts as a first step to a fresh start. Her rules are straight forward, including one that restricts and confines her to the house at all times.
Greta’s journey becomes captivating at times, but at other times, the monotony is suffocating, maybe an intentional tactic, but I didn’t see the value in that at all. Bell and Menear leave little bread crumb type clues throughout the films 97 minutes that persuade viewers that the story could take a few different directions, leaving audiences questioning where the road of ‘The Boy’ will fork off to and it’s never to a dead end.
Bear McCreary’s stellar score offers cunning cohesion with the absolutely amazing location, gorgeous house and the main character, Brahms the doll. McCreary is becoming a household name with film and television scores, recently excelling with his work in ‘The Forest’ and “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
The small sized cast was strong and entertaining to watch, aside from the weak link, Ben Robson (Vikings, Dracula:The Dark Prince,) whom was an eye-sore with an unbelieving and bogus acting style that was nearly detrimental to the climax of ‘The Boy.’ A terribly embarrassing role and execution. However, Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Agora) overpowered Robson in all the right manners.
Overall, I would say give ‘The Boy’ a shot. Watch it and become absorbed into the world that Greta has been tossed into. It’s a sincere debut writing effort from Menear, and a wonderful directing effort from Bell, hopefully spring-boarding him to greater opportunities, seeming his work with ‘The Devil Inside” and “Stay Alive” has been overlooked and underrated for far too long, maybe ‘The Boy’ is his ticket.