[Review] 'The Boy' Manages to Entertain Despite its Silly Premise - Bloody Disgusting!

[Review] ‘The Boy’ Manages to Entertain Despite its Silly Premise

The Boy Review

STX Entertainment’s first movie of 2016 is The Boy, a fun little thriller about a woman who must babysit a really creepy looking doll. Being the second wide-release horror film to come out this year (the first being the disappointing ghost story The Forest), it’s understandable to be wary. We all know that horror films released in January aren’t exactly known to be of the highest quality, but The Boy proves to be one of the more successful entries in the evil doll sub-genre, poking fun at itself at all the right moments. It is quite a bit of fun, despite its lack of inspiration.

Greta (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan) takes a job as a nanny somewhere in the United Kingdom at a large mansion owned by the Heelshires (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle). Upon arriving, she learns that the child she was supposed to be caring for is actually a porcelain doll named Brahms, who was made in the likeness of the Heelshires’ son, who died in a fire in 1991. The elderly couple treat the doll as if he were their real son, and soon leave him in Greta’s hands with a strict set of rules, which she immediately ignores. Keeping her company while the Heelshires are away is Malcolm (Rupert Evans, Hellboy, The Canal), their grocery boy man.

We spend much of The Boy watching Cohan walk around the mansion, and while you’d think that would be boring, director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside, Stay Alive) does a decent job at keeping you interested. Wisely stepping away from screenwriting duties (he has written every single film he has directed before this, and all of them have been less than stellar), Bell manages to instill a good amount of fun into newcomer Stacey Menear’s script. Menear borrows from a slew of other horror films, so the lack of originality is regrettable. There’s nothing in The Boy that we haven’t seen before.

Unfortunately Bell also relies a bit too heavily on jump scares and not one, but two (two!) fake-out dream sequences. These techniques can prove tempting to novice directors, but they ultimately cheapen the experience. It’s disappointing to see Bell still resorting to these scare tactics after having made films for over a decade. To be perfectly honest, The Boy isn’t all that scary and if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen a large chunk of the first two acts, which is unfortunate. The jump scares overwhelm but The Boy somehow still manages to keep you involved in what is happening on screen.

Cohan is a compelling lead and it’s nice to see her outside of her comfort zone, playing a vulnerable woman who has suffered a recent tragedy. Cohan has the difficult task of making us believe that she believe this doll is real, and she is certainly up to the task. The real treat in the film is Evans, who provides much of the comic relief and provides a potential love interest for Greta. Norton and Hardcastle are equally entertaining, making the most of their brief time on screen. Hardcastle is particularly good.

Taking a page from last year’s Sinister 2, The Boy brings in a violent ex-husband in an unnecessary subplot that seems to have been added to pad the movie’s runtime rather than offer any real sense of danger to Greta. As mentioned before, Sinister 2 isn’t the only movie The Boy borrows from, but to say any more would spoil much of the third act. It’s not exactly the most inspired turn of events, but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable.

The Boy is a goofy film and it knows it. It’s hard to take a tale about an evil doll seriously (Hell, even the Child’s Play franchise eventually turned to comedy). It has a sense of humor about itself while still generating a sufficient amount of menace to the proceedings. Audiences may be taken aback by the silliness of the whole affair, but if they can just go along for the ride they may find themselves pleasantly surprised. The Boy is not a great film, but you could do a lot worse this month. It’s worth the price of admission, or at least a rental.

Official Score

  • eli

    Eh, sounds like a wait-for-home-video flick. Still probably better than most of the shit releasing in theatres this weekend.

  • A Brit

    Is then more appropriate for the tween market? My 12-13yr old girls are dying to see this, may even take them today. And they love jump scares more than anything else!

    • Absolutely! It’s perfect for them.

      • eli

        For some reason I find other countries film ratings interesting. The fact that this received the same rating in Quebec (13+VH) as Zombie’s Halloween II is insane to me. No way can the heavy violence & gruesomeness of H2 be anywhere near a PG-13 creepy doll movie.

        • A Brit

          They showed the red band trailer for Deadpool at my showing. Is that allowed? Tons of f bombs and sexual references. Thought it was odd why that was playing before a pg13 movie.

          • eli

            Wow, that’s really strange. Pretty sure red band trailers are only played before R rated movies. Wait…. are you in the UK? This will almost assuredly get a 15 there, so it’d make more sense to allow a red band trailer before it. But I’m an idiot…. red band trailers are US only. So yeah, I feel like your theatre maybe screwed up hahaha. Wonder if any parents complained.

          • A Brit

            I’m a brit living in the US :). Yeah there were a few awkward groans from some other parents with young kids in the audience.

          • eli

            Ah ok. Your user name confused me. I was like wait, this doesn’t come out for another month in the UK, and hasn’t been rated there yet, haha. I’m willing to bet this will get a 15 certificate, which would make a lot more sense to allow a Deadpool trailer before it (considering a large number of our R rated movies get a 15 where you’re from).

          • ToXiX

            My theater also showed a Deadpool trailer.

          • Lirabelle

            That is incredibly weird. I can’t remember the last time I even saw a red-band trailer before an R movie.

      • A Brit

        Just got back from seeing it. Kids loved it while I found it pretty tame. Your review was spot on.

    • LoveAnimation

      People on the internet talk about how they hate jump scares all the time but the mainstream market loves jump scares and thats what makes horror movies fun for them.
      If horror movies stopped using jump scares they would lose a big bunch of customers and money.

  • Lady Bathory

    Mhhh I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed now. For me, jump scares and silliness are a very bad combination. I was hoping for something really creepy and sinister here…

    • That is definitely not what this movie is, and I can definitely see people walking out disappointed. My expectations were REALLY low going in so that undoubtedly helped matters.

  • Khy

    Very excited. I loved doll films. Great review Trace.

  • Devon

    I’ll be seeing this one for sure. I’m setting my expectations pretty low since I’m not expecting the next horror masterpiece. I’m betting this will just be a fun little horror movie.

  • DJV1985

    My one rule for films about dolls and such coming to life is simple, less is more. Dont show me the doll moving in clear shot, show me the doll moving out of focus, or in the seconds of a lightening flash.

    You could have the girl walking out a room where she finds the creepy doll and focus on her but in the room behind her shoulder and out of focus we see the doll move a little turns it head or something. Leaving the reveal of the doll moving like a human for the last few minutes like the final part of the film that way it comes off better.

    I think sometimes film makers forget that less is more, can be a better experience than anything else. It’s almost like the idea of never seeing the monster or just little pieces of the monster so that the audience can fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

  • DJV1985

    My one rule for films about dolls and such coming to life is simple, less is more. Dont show me the doll moving in clear shot, show me the doll moving out of focus, or in the seconds of a lightening flash.

    I think sometimes film makers forget that less is more, can be a better experience than anything else. It’s almost like the idea of never seeing the monster or just little pieces of the monster so that the audience can fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

    • This movie actually does a pretty good job of that! I don’t want to spoil anything for you but if that is your rule, then you should be fine here.

      • DJV1985

        Okay thanks for letting me know and thanks for not spoiling anything. It’s getting harder and harder to avoid spoilers nowadays.

  • TH3J4CK4L

    I knew just by seeing the trailer that it was going to struggle with its runtime.

  • Mr. Screamer

    ”you could do a lot worst”? Really? It’s worse*. -,-

    • Sorry! Wrote this at 2am after my midnight showing. Not an excuse by any means, but just providing some perspective. It’s been fixed. =)

      • Zachary Brown

        don’t be sorry. its really not that big of deal.

      • Mr. Screamer

        It’s okay. XD

  • J Jett

    Trace, does the move have some good emotional heft to it? (as we discussed in your “date night horror movies” article) HORNS and ODD THOMAS both had some really heartbreaking moments in it. i could see THE BOY maybe having this aspect as well. am i off on this?

    • Ehhhh not really. It tries, but it’s not given enough screen time to be effective.

      • J Jett

        oh, damn! that’s too bad. i was hoping it would have had some good emotion behind it. thanx for clarifying that for me Trace!

  • ToXiX

    Really liked this movie. I knew the twist ending before watching it so I think that helped a bit. If I hadn’t known, I probably would have been disappointed. The Boy is much better than The Forest. Less is more and this movie gives it. It is a bit slow I suppose but I didn’t find it boring at all.

  • LoveAnimation

    People used to take stuff about evil dolls seriusly all the time in the past but theres plenty of things people took seriously in the old days that people cant anymore nowadays for stupid and annoying reasons.

  • Lirabelle

    Just saw the movie today, and for the first 2/3 of the film I would say I enjoyed it. Not very suspenseful, but I enjoyed watching Greta’s personal struggle with her past trying to catch up with her and the insanity of babysitting a doll that is intended to be treated as a child.

    However, the twist in the final act completely destroyed this movie for me. It’s nonsensical and screams that the writers had no clue how to bring it to a close. Horror movies in particular seem to be victims of this trend of writing yourself in to a corner, then dropping an awkward twist to try and shake things up and mask the fact you have no clue where to go with it.

  • TESDant

    How is the ex husband an unnecessary sub plot? Her believing there is a spirit in the doll is believable because of the traumatic loss of her child which was directly caused by the ex husband making it more traumatic. I feel that sub plot really helped keep the reality in this movie. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • Clarification: his arrival (just like in Sinister 2) is an unnecessary subplot. It felt tacked on.

      • TESDant

        Gotcha. I thought his presence added to the suspense though. I got really angry when I saw him.

        • It’s highly possible I’m just desensitized. His arrival didn’t provide any suspense for me. It was more an annoyance that delayed the third act and padded the run time. Different strokes!

          • Chrissie-Watkins

            Brahms needed someone to outright kill, to show how violent he could be, so the chase in the walls was even scarier. That’s the way I saw it.

          • AkumajoBelmont

            Just finished watching this last night. The Boyfriend thing is something I’ll disagree with you on.

            Spoiler
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            I knew Cole was gonna turn up eventually – I just thought that since Greta ended up treating Brahms so well, that Brahms was gonna get protective Greta and save her from Cole. Turns out that was only partially correct. I believe Cole’s inclusion was for a little audience mis-direction.

            Really enjoyed this one, I gotta say. It was a lot of fun, and dripping with atmosphere. Not scary in the slightest, but well written, acted and shot. It’s definitely one I’ll revisit soon!

  • Chrissie-Watkins

    The ending kind of reminded me of Housebound.

  • THGrimm

    I saw this movie last weekend and I agree with the review very much; it’s worth the price of admission. I didn’t find the movie particularly good or bad, but it sailed along nicely. I was never bored and decently entertained the whole time. I didn’t expect much from the trailer, so it did alright by me.

  • Tyler Kritter Rivera

    Saw it today, I actually enjoyed it, I know it borrowed some things from other horror movies but that’s what I liked about it, it felt like a cross between child’s play, the texas chainsaw massacre, and friday the 13th. I was expecting some jump scares with it being PG-13 and all but hey, I thought it was the best descent horror movie I’ve seen in theaters since Krampus last year.

    • Pauliuc Vlad

      THE movie seems watchable but i can’t watch it on any sites please tell me is there a scene where Lauren Conan character is holding for dear life while she falls ?