I’m always a bit wary going into January movies. Besides catching up on Oscar candidates the big studios generally use it for a dumping ground. Sure we’ll get great indie films like Ex Machina and The Guest but likely than not you’ll see movies like the Robocop reboot and Mortdecai in theaters. I’m even more wary when it comes to studio horror films. In fact the year opened with a movie with such bad word of mouth that even I decided to not see it, The Forest. Still The Boy had a pretty fun premise so I decided to go out and see it with lowered expectations.
Starring Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead) she plays Greta. An American woman with a complicated past she takes a job as a nanny in a small English village. After arriving at the estate she quickly learns that she will be watching over a life-size doll of an 8 year-old boy. When she disobeys a list of strict rules she is tormented by what seem like paranormal events. Greta soon questions whether it is all in her head or if there is something much more sinister going on.
What was most surprising to me about the movie was how great it looked. While director William Brent Bell hasn’t shown much in the past with Stay Alive and The Devil Inside he shows a real knack for building suspense despite his limited budget. One scene in particular, where we catch up with the parents, just looks great. With a rainy, grey look and just an instrumental soundtrack it feels like it came from a different movie (in the best way possible). Not only that but he pulls off a certain favorite of mine, creepy doll POV cam. A huge part of this being the set designers and the house used for the film. While not as massive as Crimson Peak details like the family portrait and the old toys make it one of the creepier haunted houses in some time. I also found that despite not knowing much about the cast they all worked together pretty well. While I had only seen her The Walking Dead Lauren Cohan made for a pretty good horror lead. Her turn midway through when she questions her sanity about midway through is as believable all things considered.
Despite the cast’s best efforts they can elevate the script so much. Written by Stacey Meaner (in her first credited gig) the whole thing feels like a mash up of past horror movies. The house had similarities to Crimson Peak. The doll, Annabelle. Even the twist near the end felt is similar to a critically acclaimed horror movie from the past few years. No matter how well written the script is when so much of the film feels like it’s been taken from better movies it is hard to actually be scared. I also had a bit of a problem for Greta as a character. I know this will sound a bit crazy but hear me out. As expected seeing an elderly couple treating a doll like it’s a real person throws her off. But clearly it means a lot to this couple and she has a list of chores to do. I realize it was all done for plot convenience but all I could think was “Damn, that’s mad cold.” I highly doubt that’s the reaction they wanted for their final girl.
Going into The Boy I was expecting the worst. Between the PG-13 rating and the January release date it felt like a disaster waiting to happen. Maybe it was due to these lowered expectations but I thought it was a lot of fun. Sure the plot felt like a hodge podge of scares from better movies. But with the right cast and a great look The Boy was able to keep me engaged. Between this and a third act twist helps the movie across the finish line I can recommend seeing The Boy. While it’s not the scariest movie it’s the perfect one for a quiet afternoon.