Written by Brenda Ortiz, Staff Writer
I’m going to admit I went into this fully expecting to dislike it.
There’s just something about the creepy doll horror subgenre that I never liked. For me, creepy dolls have just never fallen into the two most interesting aspects of horror: the Uncanny Valley (we always know the doll, the obvious villain, is not like us) and body horror. There isn’t much that can be done with this horror staple that hasn’t already been done. While most horror films seem to suffer from some level of predictability, creepy doll stories have a formula that is often ubiquitous, so when I first watched the trailer to The Boy, I rolled my eyes, telling myself I knew exactly where it was going. Unfortunately, I wasn’t completely wrong.
One of the biggest problems with the movie reveals itself almost immediately: The Boy is filled to brim with horror cliches. Less than ten minutes in and I could already count them: the old, isolated house, the weird parents, the doll, the fish-out-of-water character, the British…it just goes on. We’re introduced to Greta (Lauren Cohan), a young woman from Montana who has traveled all the way to the UK for a temporary nanny job with the Heelshire family. She meets Malcolm (Rupert Evans), the family grocer and forced romantic, who does a little more than conveniently provide exposition. The elderly Heelshires (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) are presented as intimidating, hard-nosed, but devoted parents to their son Brahm, who Greta soon learns is actually a porcelain doll.
Throughout the first part of the film, Greta expresses her confusion and revulsion of Brahms and his parents’ rigid daily routines. After the Heelshire’s leave, Greta is left alone to care for Brahms and immediately gives up the charade, expressing her unease at the doll. As she goes about her day, her clothes start to go missing. Strange, but predictable events occur, and she discovers that Brahms might not be as inanimate as she thinks.
While this first part is rather quiet and slow-paced, the second half is an absolutely chaotic, rushed mess. Whatever atmosphere and characterization the first forty minutes tried to establish were quickly forgotten. The character’s decisions were seemingly unmotivated or unfitting to what we know about them. Aside from the shoehorned romantic subplot, nothing tells us who these people are. A character is introduced less than twenty minutes before the end, and before I even learned a thing about him I knew what was about to happen.
The Boy provides few scares, and apart from one admittedly creepy scene where Greta walks in on Brahms sitting perfectly in bed, the ones we do get are mostly cheap jump scares. The film seems to actively try against getting our growing number of questions answered, instead giving us twist after twist, ending with one so convoluted, even M. Night Shyamalan would cringe. Perhaps the greatest let down of the film is its earnest attempts at setting the mood, which would have added a level of tragedy for the parents and made for some good psychological horror, but instead chose to shock the audience and take the easy way out. Altogether an unsatisfying ending to an entirely unsatisfying movie.