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New Review: The Boy (2016)

Updated on May 25, 2016

Director: William Brent Bell
Cast: Lauren Cohan, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Rupert Evans, Ben Robson

The Boy announces right from the beginning what type of horror movie it’s going to be. The movie opens with Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) arriving at the isolated Gothic mansion of the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle). She’s asked to wait downstairs for the couple, but as soon as she hears a noise upstairs, she goes up to investigate, crying out “Is anyone there?” as she goes.

Later, she’ll hear a strange noise during a dark and stormy night, and will grab a candle to go investigate said noise. We also get lots of creaky floor boards, lots of whispery voices, shadows moving ominously in the background of shots, flickering lights, and that most annoying and tired horror movie cliché in the book, the It Was Only a Dream scare (which is used a couple of times here).

In other words, The Boy is really no different from so many other horror movies that came before it. Many of the jump scares are easy to predict, and while the film is better acted and made than you would expect a January released horror movie to be, it also has one of the stupidest twist endings of recent memory. Not even M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit from last year, which had a twist that was not only dumb but very easy to guess, sank this low.

But more on that twist in a second. Greta is at the Heelshire’s to take care of their 8 year old son Brahms while they go on vacation for three months. Greta is an American from Montana. The Heelshire’s live in a remote village in England. How did she hear about the couple’s desire to hire a nanny? Your guess is as good as mine, especially when you take into account that there’s no internet, no cell phone reception, and the fact that the Heelshires seem to distance themselves from society all together (they even hire a young man to bring them their groceries).

Here's an actress I'd like to see more of! :D
Here's an actress I'd like to see more of! :D

But never mind. It turns out, Brahms is actually a ridiculously creepy porcelain doll. Greta winds up taking the job because it pays very well, and because she’s trying to escape from an abusive ex-boyfriend back home. Lucky for her, the local grocery man is a handsome and charming young lad named Malcolm (Rupert Evans), who immediately takes a liking to her, and flirts with her by telling her he can foretell her future by reading the masticated piece of chewing gum in her mouth. It seems to work for her. Maybe I should try that on the next girl that I find myself attracted to.

What seems like an easy job turns horrifying when Greta fails to follow the list of rules for caring for Brahms. The night she’s supposed to go out with Malcolm for a night on the town, she hears a strange noise coming from the attic and decides to go up the spring-controlled stairs to investigate (wearing nothing but a bath towel, of course). Needless to say, she gets locked in. Later, she hears footsteps running up and down the hallway, and when she opens the door, she finds Brahms in a different place than where she remembered putting him.

For a while, the movie seems to be telling a story about the pain of losing a loved one. Brahms died in a fire on his eighth birthday, and it seems as though the Heelshires are trying to keep the spirit of their son alive through the doll (their final scene is really quite tragic). Greta sympathizes with the elderly couple, because she knows what it’s like to lose a child. She was pregnant some time before, and she suffered a miscarriage after her boyfriend beat her.

Here come the water works!
Here come the water works!

The cast is actually pretty good. Cohan is not only an insanely beautiful woman (I didn’t mind at all the many close-up shots on her face), but she manages to turn in a good performance here, which is surprising, given how dumb things get. Evans is likable as the delivery boy Malcolm, and Norton and Hardcastle make the most out of their limited scenes. Director William Brent Bell manages a couple of mildly tense moments (he’s improved so much since his 2012 fiasco The Devil Inside), and the technical credits are slick and eye-catching, although the movie relies on shaky camera work during the climax.

As a January released horror movie, it’s surprisingly not terrible. It’s not at all original, and not at all scary, but it’s not really awful either. Then there’s the final twist. It’s not what you think it is, or maybe it is (I don’t know). Either way, not only is it impossibly stupid, but it makes no sense. There’s a part of me that’s tempted to reveal the ending, if only so you’d know what you’d be getting into should you decide to see it. Just know that it has something to do with a little girl that was murdered around the same time as Brahms' tragic death, and that the more you think about it, the lamer it seems.

Before the start of the movie, there was a trailer for a movie called The Witch, which tells a supernatural tale of a family tormented by evil spirits in the 1620s. Critics are already raving about it, and there are a couple of other horror movies to be released this year that look quite promising. For all you horror movie buffs out there, give it time. Your patience will pay off, and you’ll certainly feel far more satisfied than if you were to rush out to see The Boy.

Rated PG-13 for violent images, some language, thematic material

Final Grade: ** (out of ****)

What did you think of the movie? :D

2 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of The Boy (2016)

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