The Boy review: a hollow dollhouse

A young American woman Greta (Lauren Cohan) gets a job as a nanny in an isolated estate in England. Her employers: the elderly couple are wealthy and generous. But the boy we meet isn’t a boy but a life-size porcelain doll of an eight-year-old named Brahms.

The boy has grieving parents with old money, have suffered the loss of a child in a tragic accident and they have a rulebook Greta strictly needs to follow in order to take care of Brahms. “He will be good to you if you are good to him, and bad to you if you are bad to him”, she is told by the couple before they go off on a long-awaited holiday leaving the child in Greta’s care.

Director: William Brent Bell
Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russel, Jim Norton, Diana Hadrcastle
Run time:105 mins

The classic horror genre trappings – the haunted house, the creepy doll – are all in place. And for a good part of the first hour, The Boy manages to keep us hooked as long as the horror is psychological. We don’t know if Greta really heard noises or is it the wine and the situation that’s putting thoughts in her head? One of Greta’s two companions is her sister, who is just a voice on the phone.

What makes things further interesting is director William Brent Bell’s subtle sexualisation of Greta. The establishing shot of The Boy emphasises this – she’s half-asleep in the car on the way to her new employers’ house in England and she wakes up to catch the elderly chauffeur staring at her cleavage on the rear view mirror. When this extends to her ensuing relationship with the boy, the film feels greater than just another scary movie opening up so many possibilities normally not explored in the genre. As in the protagonists of any psychological horror film, Greta has a dark past, hints of which we are gradually given. The Boy wants to be in that space, but only as long as things are still in the fog. It loses the plot when it tries to tie the ends. It’s almost like the director liked the idea of making it psychological and then went to look for a story that could fit.

The big twist in the last 30 minutes is almost bizarre. It doesn’t add up and nearly undoes the good job its done in parts until then. In a sudden turn of events, it becomes a slasher movie. And as a viewer, who was hoping to see a horror film that rises beyond the generic, we feel cheated.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 3:59:43 PM |

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