The Boy (2016)

Every child needs to feel loved

Writer: Stacey Menearr
Director: William Brent Bell

The Boy is about a creepy doll that might or might not be alive. If you think you’ve seen that movie a thousand times before then think again – this one’s different.

The story revolves around Greta Lauren Cohen, a young American woman who has come to England to work for Mr & Mrs Heelshire in their large country house. Her job is to look after their eight year old son Brahms.

Which sounds fine, until she actually meets Brahms – who turns out to be a life-sized (albeit it not very life-like) china doll. The Heelshires both treat the doll as if he were a living child and expect Great to do the same. At first she thinks it’s a joke, but she soon realises they’re completely serious.

When the Heelshires leave to go on holiday Greta is left alone with Brahms and Things start happening. Given the unseemly haste with which the Heelshires left you have to wonder if they were actually running away…

The Boy feels a bit hokey at the beginning with the attempts to make the setting feel English (no, we don’t really take black cabs everywhere), but once we meet Brahms things get interestingly weird.

It’s a refreshingly original setup. Unfortunately the implementation doesn’t really do it justice. It’s all over the place in terms of style and Bell seems unsure whether he’s aiming for shocker, spooky ghost story or psychological thriller. A few scenes – such as the one at the beach – are superb, but for much of the the time it feels as if he’s trying too hard.

There are also two dream based jump scares, which is two too many.

Acting is decent enough and Cohen does a solid if unspectacular job. Jim Norton and – especially – Diana Hardcastle are excellent as the Heelshires.

Ultimately it does all come to a logical conclusion. However after the originality of the setup it’s disappointing that the actual ending is a very familiar one which summons up the phantoms of old Hammer horror movies. Maybe that’s the feel they were aiming for but it does make it very predictable, despite valiant attempts at misdirection.

Overall The Boy is a decent enough film that doesn’t really live up to its great potential.