Take a Drink: after every dream sequence.
Take a Drink: for every close up on a dead animal’s mounted head.
Take a Drink: for every shot showing the Heelshire family mural.
Down a Shot: when Braham makes Greta a PB&J sandwich.
By: Mitch Hansch (Three Beers) –
An American girl, Gretta Evans (played by The Walking Dead vet Lauren Cohan), takes a nanny position in the country outskirts in an England mansion. When the odd Heelshire parents played by Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle introduce Gretta to their son Braham, Gretta thinks it must be a joke. Because young Braham is not a real boy but actually just a porcelain doll. However, don’t tell his parents that. Gretta is given a very specific set of rules to follow for her new little glass buddy. Definitely disturbed by it, Gretta’s sympathy for the weathered old couple and more importantly, her desire to get away from a man she has restraining order on back in the states, has her taking the job.
Eventually, little Braham seems to be responsible for things that can’t be explained around the house in a natural way. If doll Braham is in some way ‘alive’, then it’s probably not for good reasons.
A horror slash thriller genre ensues…. and one much better than I ever predicted.
Only two weeks ago, The Forest, which tried to cash in on the usual horror New Year time slot, had a fellow mega hit TV actress in Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones. But unlike Dormer, who looked overmatched by that film’s silly premise, Lauren Cohan elevates even sillier material, really ridiculous when you think about it, to actual compelling storytelling. The main two reasons this film is watchable is because of Lauren Cohan’s acting and Stacy Menear’s excellent story and script. The Boy isn’t so much a good movie but more of a really good story that’s acted out pretty darn decently. Menear, whose unproduced script, Mixtape, is on the prestigious Black List, really delivers a really excellent slow burn psychological thriller that actually works well in its PG-13 confines as it delivers an evolving drama that doesn’t just rely on jump scares and cliches (cough.. The Forest…cough).
After the rough first half, which I’ll get into later, all the story’s beats somehow actually work out all right. Gretta’s burgeoning relationship with the Heelshire’s grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans) plays sweet, and even though it’s obvious that Greta’s obsessive old flame Cole mostly serves the film to give some horror release in the third act, there is real weight that this abusive relationship gives to pushing the story along.
The ‘reveal’, which of course I won’t get into, works well, so well that it makes you want to go back and rewatch it so you can look for all the clues. The reveal isn’t perfectly executed (director’s fault), but in the end, it makes sense, and does what so many horror films don’t accomplish- moving the story forward.
The Boy is overdirected. At the helm is William Brent Bell, who definitely didn’t impress with the exorcism retread The Devil Inside a few years ago. Bell has a way of adding too much with his cuts and zooms that don’t add to the story but just play superfluous. An example would be cutting to taxidermied animal heads mounted on the wall which have absolutely nothing to do with the story. Bell can’t help but put a steamy shower scene in the film, but he tries to justify it by thinking he can reinvent it as his camera moves way more than he can. Bell’s film is saved over and over by Menear’s script. As I said earlier, The Boy isn’t so much a good movie (Bell’s fault), but a really good story that’s acted pretty darn decently (Menear and Cohan’s praise).
The film starts off bad. Gretta briefly wakes up from her nap and notices that her perv old man driver is checking her out through the rearview mirror. This scene has no purpose, this perv driver never reenters the story, and if it was supposed to convey some foundation of uneasiness, then it failed. From there, The Boy really takes a while to get its porcelain feet off the ground; in retrospect, it works, but maybe not as efficiently as it would have with a surer director in charge.
Plot holes. How did Gretta hear about this nanny position? Craigslist? I don’t think so. The Heelshires make a point of it that they have to give the ok as she’s being interviewed on the spot when Gretta first arrives, pointing out that they that they’ve interviewed many before her. So what would’ve happened if she didn’t get it? Would she have just hopped back on a plane and quickly tried to find a new way to avoid Cole? Just saying.
I was quite surprised that I liked this film. For the third time, The Boy is not a good film, but I still think it’s worth one watch and maybe even a second.