The Boy (2016)
If you are looking for a horror movie with more originality than usual this may be your film. Most horrors are standard genre films that rely on cinema clichés to frighten us, even though audiences have become immune to plots with spooky dolls, isolated nannies and scary mansions. The Boy (2016) stands out by combining all of these horror tropes into a single story then overlays them with a plausible thriller about parental grief. It tries to be a serious film without the lame humour which so often sugar-coats horror movies into comedy-thrillers. But the downside is also typical of the genre: it runs out of ideas on how to finish the job.
Greta (Lauren Cohan) is fleeing a bad relationship and applies for a nanny job caring for an 8-year old. She arrives at an isolated mansion in the English countryside and the child turns out to be a life-size doll called Brahms. The older couple’s son died in mysterious circumstances twenty years earlier and Brahms is their way of dealing with unresolved grief. The creepy parents abruptly depart for an extended holiday, leaving Greta with strict instructions on how to care for Brahms. At first she ignores Brahms but soon weird things happen like the doll changes position and strange sounds echo through the house. Greta is alone and terrified until she befriends the local grocery guy Malcolm, but all hell breaks loose when the violent ex-boyfriend turns up unexpectedly. Poor Brahms becomes the unwanted child in some high-tension scenes but predictably the doll gets its revenge.
Although not a great fan of horrors, this one kept me engaged until the final quarter where a tired old stock-standard formula is used to tie the narrative ends together. Until then, the film maintains a menacing Gothic atmosphere and enough surprises to keep you guessing what will happen next. Lauren Cohan is well cast as Greta and the story moves along at a lively pace. You need to suspend disbelief and go along with the story premise otherwise you are unlikely to see it through and are probably not a horror fan anyway. A good test if it will work on you is to grab a toy doll and stare into its eyes; if you can imagine it staring back at you with malicious intent, you pass and should see The Boy.
Director: William Brent Bell
Stars: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell