“The Boy” has a simplistic plot, as is customary in horror films. An American nanny, Greta, travels to Britain to take care of eight year old Brahms. His parents are going on a much needed vacation without him. However, once she arrives, Brahms’s parents introduce her to a porcelain doll and claim it’s their son. This is enough to make any nanny flee, but Greta decides to stick it out.
Even though hopping on a flight straight back to America is her first impulse upon meeting the dummy, Greta’s being paid enough money to make it worth her while to play nanny to a doll. Unfortunately, once the parents are out of the house, bizarre things begin happening indoors. At first, she thinks there is an intruder. But then she suspects that Brahms may actually be a living doll. She must figure out if Brahms is alive and just how innocent he truly is if that is the case.
This sounds like a dumb movie and it is. The truth behind the doll is more original than the backstory for the title character in “Chuckie” or Slappy from the “Goosebumps” franchise. It’s the unique story behind the doll that is responsible for a lot of the suspense in the film, but that wasn’t used to its full advantage. The suspense is not akin to the kind found in a Hitchcock film like “Rear Window.”
Without giving too much away, this movie probably would have worked a lot better had a reverse “Rear Window” situation been better employed. In the movie “Rear Window,” James Stewart’s character spies on a suspicious neighbor through a rear window. Greta (from “The Boy”) , on the other hand, thinks she is the one being spied on. The drama escalates in “Rear Window” as Stewart’s character realizes his neighbor is every bit as sinister as he suspects. Because Greta suspects Brahms is alive and has his eye on her, there are shots that imply she is being spied on. But those shots don’t help build suspense in the same way that they did in “Rear Window.” The way “The Boy” is shot does make us suspect something sinister is going on, but it could have been more dramatic. The obvious spying and Greta’s own sense of vulnerability escalates in the film, but it never reaches the same peak that Stewart portrays in “Rear Window.” Compared to “Rear Window” or not, the ending of “The Boy” is a letdown.
This movie would have been better if there had been less emphasis on the mystery of the dummy and more emphasis on the spying aspect. Weirdly, it’s not even Greta who finally puts it together that the spying goes deeper than what she initially thought. A character who comes out of nowhere uses plain, common sense to figure out how Greta and others who visit the house are being spied on. The logistics of the spying was actually scarier than the entire movie, which is why that should have been the focus.