Despite being perhaps the least creatively named movie in the genre, The Boy is one of the more original plot lines I’ve seen in horror lately. Take It Follows – one of Hollywood’s most recent horror hits. The plot line of It Follows is compelling and unique, but the movie’s title is perfectly indicative of the events in the film: an unnamed “it” will follow you. (Let me emphasize again that I love It Follows and proudly proclaim my adoration here, but the film’s brilliance doesn’t lie in plot twists, and its title is perfectly indicative of the film’s central conflict.) The Boy is similar in that yes, in part, the movie is about a boy, but forecasting the plot twists in this film will be tricky for even the most seasoned horror veteran. Predicting plot lines isn’t much my forte, but Michael is exceptionally adept at doing so, and his prediction turned out to be mostly wrong. The Boy will surprise you, and at least for me, that surprise was welcomed and refreshing.
I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I tell you that my reaction toward the end of the film was laughter. This reaction is not to say that The Boy isn’t scary – it is, at least to a degree – and I don’t mean to imply that it’s a horror movie that tries to integrate comedy seamlessly into its plot, because the movie doesn’t intend to be funny. Romantic, at times, and suspenseful, most definitely. Sometimes the film is even moving, from a certain standpoint, but humor is not what the film’s aiming for. Still, when the lights in the movie theater went on and banished the dark, unsettling ambience that was around me, when footsteps started to sound on the theater floor and chatter permeated the theater’s background, all I could do was look at Michael and laugh. A bit taken aback – in a most pleasant way – about what the writers did with the film and where we ended up by its conclusion, I struggled to nestle into my Old Navy pea coat amidst the semi-silence of post-movie contemplation that I’ve come to look forward to. My, I thought, that was certainly interesting.
An American girl, Greta (Lauren Cohen), travels to a rural English manor to be the nanny for a couple’s little boy. In case you haven’t seen the preview, the “little boy,” turns out to be a large, floppy porcelain doll with an unnervingly perfect and subtly conniving face, supremely manufactured to disturb audience members, especially those with irrational fears of creepy dolls. (I mean, come on, in that way, dolls are much like clowns; some people are just bothered by them). Not surprisingly, Greta is skeptical – in fact, she doesn’t pause to consider the possibility that the doll is the ghost of a little boy – and she’s slightly put off by the prospect of settling into the isolated manor with a lone doll meant to represent a couple’s dead son. But, Greta’s fleeing a dark past. So, she decides that a two month stay in a fancy English manor with a hefty weekly salary will be worth the discomfort of settling into a particularly bizarre situation.
Soon, objects start to disappear and unusual occurrences crop up. Through a series of bizarre events, Greta, and her partial friend, partial romantic interest, Malcolm (Rupert Evans), open up to the possibility that little Brahms (the dead boy’s name) is still, in some ways, very much alive. At this point, the movie takes a series of unexpected turns that left me both startled and bemused.
Though suspenseful and certainly unsettling, the film was still far less scary than I thought it would be. On the whole, however, it was more interesting than I expected. The filmmakers effectively leave the question of Brahms’ intent in enigmatic abeyance: is this just the ghost of a little boy who wants to be loved, or is it a malicious spirit? Both? Neither? Answers don’t arise quickly in this film, and part of its brilliance lies in its ability to temporarily distort our perception of reality. For at least a portion of the movie, we wonder if the entire creepy doll experience is an unhealthy byproduct of Greta’s already traumatized mind. Personally, I love when films raise questions of this sort.
The cast is solid, with Lauren Cohen carrying most of the acting’s weight because her role is so central and she’s alone frequently. I virtually fell in love with Lauren Cohen as the intelligent, confident, kind Maggie in The Walking Dead, so I’m glad she delivered a stellar performance in this film. Not only does she convey fear well – she conveys an excellent array of strange emotions that arise from the film’s unusual situations. And let’s face it: Lauren Cohen is just likeable. She’s an every day girl with whom I can imagine being close friends. She’s endearing in The Walking Dead, and she’s lovable, charming, and easy to sympathize with in this film.
Finally, The Boy avoids horror clichés. There are some typical, horror-like moments of suspense, loud music, and startling, but the writers wove a particularly unique plot that borrows from key motifs of classic horror movies without regurgitating a dull, near-perfunctory prototype. The film picks from and builds off horror, re-working the genre to spin a tale that is romantic, mysterious, and moving.
Although I make it a point to see every horror movie that comes to theaters, I don’t necessarily advocate that approach for everyone; I’m a faithful fan of the genre, and I very much enjoy blogging about the macabre, abnormal and insidious. But anyone who has a bent or proclivity toward horror should see this film, for its solid acting and sheer uniqueness. In fact, Michael – not the horror lover I am, although his enjoyment of the genre has definitely increased – has repeatedly expressed how much he likes this film.
Though I may not consider The Boy a glorious masterpiece, it’s an exceptional example of a refreshing twist on a genre that – while I’ll always love it – lends itself easily to both excellent and cliché films. For that reason, I am a self-proclaimed fan and strong proponent of The Boy!