Like a parent whose child has let them down, I’m not angry at The Boy, I’m just very, very disappointed.
The Boy, directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Menear (and not to be confused with last year’s The Boy), tells the story of Greta (Lauren Cohan), a young woman from Montana, who while attempting to escape her troubled past, gets a temporary job as a nanny looking after a boy for the upper class Heelshire family in the UK.
Things take a turn for the sinister, however, when we learn that their son, Brahms, isn’t an ordinary boy. In fact, he’s a life-sized porcelain doll and Greta’s expected to care for it like it were a real child.
Before the Heelshires leave on holiday, they give Greta a list of rules to follow, which she promptly ignores, causing the devious doll to become… mischievous.
I’ll confess something now – I’m scared of dolls, petrified, and when I saw the trailer for The Boy I was terrified.
There was something about that combination of music and imagery that made me very uneasy and, being a horror fan, I couldn’t wait to see the film.
However, the release date kept on getting pushed back, and back, and deep in my subconscious a little nagging voice began to say: ‘It’s because it’s going to be bad.’
But, being the positive person I am, I pushed past this and went into the cinema this Friday looking forward to some thrills and chills, so it’s disappointing to say I’d probably have had a scarier evening if I’d just stayed in and stared at a blank wall all night.
Now, that’s not to say that the film’s terrible – it’s technically well shot and there are moments which almost threaten to actually scare you.
The film’s props department, for example, deserve an awful lot of praise because the actual Brahms doll is a beautiful piece of prop work.
The tiny glass child is haunting looking and is a perfect combination of spooky and downright sad, and the team behind it should be very proud.
The same goes for the house where the movie was shot – it’s a wonderfully imposing location with an air of menace completely independent of the titular boy.
Add to this some impressive effort by the cast to make the film’s pretty poor script make sense and the film manages to avoid being a complete mess. But it’s not good, not by a long stretch.
Once again (I worry that I’ll get repetitive strain injury saying this in almost every horror film review), The Boy fails as a film because it simply isn’t scary enough.
If you’re going to have a film about a living doll then I want to be creeped out and frightened, not mildly amused or, even worse, bored.
Honestly, for the first hour of this film, it was like the film forgot that it was supposed to be building an atmosphere of dread and instead we got to see such ‘terrifying scenes’ as Greta drinking wine, Greta ordering magazines and Greta showering. It was mind numbing.
Then a miracle happened and the film suddenly remembered it was a horror film and we got some genuinely sinister stuff with Brahms insisting, in his own unique way, that Greta follow the rules his parents have asked her to.
It was scary and tense, and lasted about ten minutes before we went back to the exciting world of Greta’s chores, but now with the Brahms doll accompanying her. Great…
I think part of the problem with the movie is Greta’s reaction to finding out that the doll is seemingly alive. How am I as a viewer supposed to be scared if the lead actor seems as frightened of being all alone with a living doll as a normal person is when they spot that their car’s coming up for its MOT?
Seriously, I’m not sure if it’s the direction or an acting choice, but after some initial screaming she reacts to the news that the doll is alive with dull surprise and quickly adapts to her hideous new life serving a piece of possessed pottery.
I will say this about The Boy – it didn’t go straight to jump scares, and I was actually going to praise the film for showing some restraint, but it ends up committing a far worse cinema sin.
The third act twist – now, I’m not saying any film that uses this particular trope is bad, that would be ridiculous – instead, I’m saying that it’s frequently misused by lazy filmmakers who need to add a splash of colour to their otherwise grey film.
The Boy’s twist is of particular note because it comes from the M. Night Shyamalan school of not even making sense within the film’s narrative. It made me roll my eyes so much that I was in danger of them ending up in the lap of the person sitting next to me. Honestly, the audience laughed at the reveal, it was that shit.
Ultimately, The Boy feels like a wasted opportunity, and while other reviews have praised its ‘bonkers’ ending, to me it was just like the doll, Brahms – really hollow.