Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Boy

On this blog, I've always claimed that I don't like horror movies, but so far, the only ones I've reviewed I've given good scores to, with a disclaimer that they are an exception to the rule. Well, today I'm reviewing a horror movie that requires no such disclaimer.

Yep, I watched a horror movie featuring a creepy doll. Do I regret it? Well...

In The Boy, Greta (), an American woman moves to a rich mansion in the English countryside to be a temporary nanny to the child of a couple looking to go on holiday. Things get very creepy very fast when Greta meets the child -- Brahms -- and discovers that he is not a child at all, but a child-sized doll. The parents treat him as if he were a child though, and expect Greta to as well. The charming grocery delivery man Malcolm () explains to her that many years ago the real Brahms was killed in a fire, and soon after the doll took his place. Strange and creepy though it is, Greta decides that the situation is harmless enough, and the pay is good, so she settles down for a couple months of paid down time all alone in a giant old house. But Brahms has a list of rules -- of things that must be done every day -- and he doesn't take kindly to neglect.

I'll go ahead and mention right now that this is a movie that I never would have watched on my own volition. Credit goes to my little brother who saw it in theaters and... wanted me to see it. And while I'd never expect to enjoy a film like this as much as he does, The Boy was interesting in a few big and unexpected ways, so I'm glad I watched it. Even after seeing the trailer, which I expected would ruin the experience at least a little, the movie impressed me with the way it handled its mystery, and was actually enhanced by the trailer if anything.

Effective fear; not effective storytelling.
However, this is exactly the kind of horror movie that is not my kind of horror movie, and for the most part while watching it, I didn't enjoy myself. I understand the idea that being scared produces a fun thrill, and I actually have experienced and enjoyed that kind of entertainment, but for me, the thrill of fear can never replace the thrill and enjoyment that comes from regular entertaining and exciting storytelling. This movie is very consistently scary, but is not consistently entertaining. The scary aspect cannot stand alone. There are notable moments where real interest and excitement -- mostly in places where reveals were being made -- and in those moments I did enjoy the film, but they were too far and few between. Mostly the film tries to get by on stagnate fear and suspense, perpetuated by too-long close-up shots of the doll's face.

Lauren Cohan as the leading lady is nothing special. The character is smarter than perhaps she might have been which is good, but doesn't really have any noteworthy qualities. She's there to have to plot happen to her, and that is all that she does. Rupert Evans is only really noteworthy because he's Rupert Evans, and maybe I could say this for Cohan if I'd seen her in anything before like I have him, but he really didn't get to do anything. His character was there for a purpose as well -- mainly for exposition -- and besides that he (and her) were left alone too much. There was no meat to the two characters, and nothing for them to overcome. I suppose that's par for the course for cheaper horror flicks though isn't it? The parents served their purpose in a way that didn't leave them lacking, but they were smaller characters in the first place.

The plot is the first and last thing this film as going for it. I would have told it differently -- paced it differently, faster, and added more to the final act (though I can't figure out how or what), but the story on a basic level is interesting and worth the watch. If you like that kind of thing, of course, but then you can't know what exactly "that kind of thing" is until you've seen it. I approved of the direction taken, but thought ultimately that the presentation fell short of anything compelling. And in the end it left a few holes, and very little satisfaction. I realize that's a horror movie's mantra, but in a lot of ways, The Boy was neither your typical horror film, nor your typical boy.

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