Movie Review: ‘THE BOY’ Might Kill A Few Brain Cells

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

THE BOY | 97 min | PG-13
Director: William Brent Bell
Cast: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans and James Russell

One of the most difficult genres to reach both financial and critical success is horror. There needs to be a sensible balance between reality and gags. Too much reality leads to a boring movie, leaving the audience unsatisfied in what they came to see; too many scares without a sense of realism leads to something hollow. This leads us to THE BOY, a horror movie that lacks either horror or the semblance of an original movie.

Greta (Lauren Cohan) is running from her life in the U.S. She somehow becomes the new nanny for the Heelshires, which is only explained by the fact that Greta feels like she is supposed to be there; fate has brought her to this pseudo-Gothic mansion in the middle of nowhere. As she arrives and meets her employers, there is something a little off. This something is the fact that the child she is to look after is a porcelain replica of their now-deceased son, Brahms.

The Heelshires treat Brahms as their real son, complete with a daily routine that Greta must abide by in her tenure. Greta laughs at first but soon realizes that this is serious to them. After explaining the rules on how to handle their son, they leave Brahms in her keep as they depart for “vacation”. Soon enough, things go bump in the night complete with the creepy kid voice and the doll’s blank stare. Is the spirit of Brahms alive in the doll, or is Greta going crazy?

THE BOY starts riding the cliché train as soon as possible, as the establishing shot is the ubiquitous overhead tracking shot as Greta arrives to the mansion. We’re later met with the cutaways to mounted animal heads, the phantom phone calls, and the gratuitous shower scene. Do you like your horror movies with the protagonist blindly going into the attic? Well, look no further!

Lauren Cohen stars in THE BOY. Photo courtesy of STX Entertainment.

Lauren Cohan stars in THE BOY. Photo courtesy of STX Entertainment.

Also, how is everyone British in this movie, but the protagonist, a British woman in real life, needs to be American? It’s these ideas that give the movie a falseness about it, a clumsiness it never recovers from. Another cliché is the love interest that manifests in an inexplicable amount of time, Malcolm (Rupert Evans). Not only does he make Greta feel like she’s not alone, he also has a ton of information about Brahms that he doesn’t disclose all at once; he’s scared she’ll leave and he won’t have her!

Director William Brent Bell, who helmed such horror catastrophes as THE DEVIL INSIDE and STAY ALIVE, mishandles what is actually good cinematography and set design. The house looks creepy because it resembles a doll house more than an actual mansion, and the lighting gives the would-be horror a nice canvas. But there are a lot of unnecessary close-ups that don’t do anything, and the left-field entrance of Greta’s abusive boyfriend, Cole (Ben Robson, of VIKINGS fame) is so nonchalant that they don’t care about his American accent getting lost.

THE BOY is clearly the latest of January throwaway releases. Cohan and Evans are solid actors, but everything is just so thin and played out that it’s hard to be invested, even when the twist happens in the third act.

Note: Before the movie, there was a trailer for THE WITCH. After the movie, all I kept thinking was how I couldn’t wait to see THE WITCH.

THE BOY is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.