The Boy (2016) – Horror
Directed by: William Brent Bell
Starring: Lauren Cohan and Rupert Evans
How I Watched: Streamed on Showtime
Review by Eric Scot Lemons
There are some ideas that are so fucking stupid, they are actually good. Horror tends to be the genre that best collects these gems that make you think, ‘who the fuck thought this would be good?’ The Boy, which came out in 2016, is one of these films. Quite possibly, the most overused trope of the 2000’s in horror was that of the creepy kid. We saw it in The Ring and The Grudge. The 2010’s saw the return of the creepy doll with Annabelle and the remake of Poltergeist. Yes, the creepy kid and creepy doll are tropes that played out in the 70’s and 80’s as well. We live in a recursive culture, you see. Time is a flat circle or some shit. Anyway, the point I am getting to is that The Boy mixes these tropes to seemingly idiotic effect, until the story actually starts evolving.
The film starts with a nanny played by Lauren Cohan who was in The Walking Dead and still might be. I don’t watch that shit. The nanny, Greta, gets some Craigslist job in England where shit is inherently creepy to watch some child. But when she gets there, the spooky unhinged parents reveal that she will in fact be watching a doll that looks like a boy, but is totally inanimate. The design of the wooden figure is actually quite excellent in that it has a blank expression that simultaneously looks both angelic and menacing. Not like Dead Silence (2007) where it fucking grins maniacally throughout, and then everyone is surprised when it turns out evil.
I mean, of course, the situation in The Boy is fucked up, but what the film tries to hint is that maybe it isn’t, and that’s where the film gains strength. Greta indulges the “parents,” complying with what seems to be their grief, as the doll is meant to represent the boy the couple lost in a fire. They eventually leave on an extended holiday (British for vacation), and she is left alone with the doll. She just throws it on a chair and makes herself a peanut butter & jelly sammich, relaxing. This is where shit is kinda weird for me. Being somewhat neurotic, I’d either assume this was some test and I was on CCTV, or that maybe there is some fucked up reason the parents catered so heavily to the doll, and I would just keep acting like it was a real boy. I would probably fail some social experiment about compliance, but fuck it, I am like 20% sure ghosts don’t exist, but like, 20% afraid of everything. Therefore, what can it hurt? Anyway, the negligence gets to be too much for the doll, and it starts moving and shit when she isn’t in the room.
The strength of the film comes from Greta’s reaction to the movement and supposed life of the doll. Not with fear, but amazement. Too often in horror films, we see characters, especially women, respond with terror when confronted by anything outside of the norm. It is refreshing to see someone experimenting with that which is strange. I mean, the film does come with its own brand of “horror,” in that it turns out the movements are made by the actual adult son that is living in the walls. He then tries to kill people because it is a stupid third act, but for a bit of time, the film is curious and energetic, playing against the shit that usually comes from the “haunted house” story.
In many ways, the film is unremarkable, however it is fun to follow, and the inherent creepiness of seeing people treat a doll like a real human gives legs to the uncanny nature of the story. It sounds stupid to recommend a film like this, but if you are in the mood for a horror film that will tingle your interests, but won’t take up too much brain matter, check it out.