“It’s like something out of a storybook, isn’t it?”
When a movie includes a line like that at the beginning, you know something’s wrong. Near the beginning of ‘The Boy,’ Greta Evans (played by ‘The Walking Dead’s’ Lauren Cohan) exclaims this line about the old, large house she is about to spend a few weeks in. It elicited a few giggles from the audience at the cinema. Let’s get this out of the way with first: ‘The Boy’ is the least scariest horror I’ve seen since the remake of ‘Poltergeist.’ Doing a horror/thriller about a possessed doll is a tough thing to do, but this film manages to get almost everything wrong. However, there was at least a little enjoyment in pointing out all of its flaws…
American Greta has been invited to be a nanny to the son of the weird British Heelshires. Their house is massive, old and something right out of a ghost story. Okay, I paraphrased Greta’s line…oh dear! If I were Greta, my first instinct would be to walk away! It turns out that the son, Brahms is a porcelain doll, but the Heelshires treat it like a human. They have dinner with it, read to it and kiss it goodnight before bed (Brahms has a list of rules that must be abided by!). The Heelshires are going away for a few weeks, so Greta will be left with Brahms. Of course, when they leave, “spooky” stuff starts happening…
“He wants you, Ms Evans”
A good horror movie requires a slow build to the first big spooky happening. That’s why I was patient with ‘The Boy,’ as the Heelshires went through the ins and outs of looking after Brahms with Greta. I even smiled a little when the grocery man, Malcolm, awkwardly flirted with Greta in the kitchen. Horror needs some comedic relief before the scares kick in! There was even an appreciable level of suspense and tangible fear as Greta explored the old house on her own. Some thought and effort went into creating an atmosphere for the movie, but it fell apart all too easily.
It took longer than necessary for the scares to kick in. The slow build eventually undid the good work at creating a suffocating atmosphere. There’s a fine line between taking your time and taking the biscuit, and ‘The Boy’ took the biscuit! When the scares did kick in, they were almost laughable. For example, the first “scare” was in the form of a dream, where Greta was wearing a nightdress that barely covered her rear! I wouldn’t mind, but when she woke up from the dream she was dressed in normal pyjamas! It was a typical, lame jump scare that can only catch you unawares the first time round.
Both in the dreams and in reality, Greta’s skin seemed to be exposed an awful lot. We see her in the shower, in her knickers and a shirt that shows a lot of cleavage. At the start of the film, her taxi driver is shown looking in the rear-view mirror at her cleavage. I understand that in a horror film, women’s nakedness is a sign of their vulnerability. They are exposed so that they can be portrayed as victims. It may be sexist, but many horror films use the technique (especially slashers). In ‘The Boy,’ however, it felt too gratuitous, and it didn’t lend any air of threat or menace to proceedings.
“Why won’t you follow the rules?”
Okay, rant about needless shows of skin over! From the first ‘scare’ onwards, the plot muddled its way through Greta’s fear of Brahms to her understanding of Brahms. Lauren Cohen did the best she could with the lines given to her, but it became very silly very quickly. Malcolm, the grocery man, dipped in whenever was necessary (acting as a plot device rather than a character). Things descended into ludicrous territory, with sub-plots being hurled at the screen with little explanation. An implausible twist sucked any remaining life out of the story.
‘The Boy’ had a promising (although clichéd) opening, but it soon veered into eye-rolling banality rather than nerve-shredding fear. There was nothing that got underneath my skin, or even teased a nightmare. Instead of laying down a trail of terror, the path we were given included a few jump scares, needless sub-plots and Malcolm’s awkward flirtation attempts with Greta. What a waste of my hard-earned money!
VERDICT: 3/10. ‘The Boy’ had a promising build, but descended into mediocrity and stupidity when the jump scares started. It provoked more yawns than screams!