Horror films are the single most exciting movie genre so it’s always disappointing when bad horror films show up in theaters. The Boy, directed by William Brent Bell is the new culprit this week.
The film is jam packed with clichés of horror – creepy dolls, a dead child, a new servant coming to an obviously haunted Victorian house, a lame twist – the works. This time we have Lauren Cohan as Greta, a young woman who escapes from an abusive relationship and takes up a job of a nanny at a British Victorian house. The house is obviously creepy, there is some spirit clearly wandering around. The parents of the child are also obviously creepy, and they very obviously hide some secret from Greta. And the child that Greta is supposed to take care of is actually a doll, which slowly turns out to have some life.
Generally when such clichés are present in the script the good horror films try to either subvert them, or try to make up for the clichés with great atmospheric, well directed horror – case in point The Woman in Black. But not all horror films have such luck, and The Boy pretty much missteps in every step it takes.
The creepy doll story has been done countless times – most recently in James Wan’s Dead Silence and the horrible The Conjuring spin-off Anabelle. The Boy doesn’t really have anything new to offer in the genre. What we get are the standard issue jump scares where the doll mysteriously appears and disappears in places it should not be in, and character walk down long silent corridors until the inevitable loud bang.
There is a twist in the third act which is interesting on paper but is so badly executed it comes across as laughable. And when you think about the twist it does not make any sense. Ultimately it seems like a twist that was shoehorned in to create some cheap thrill for teenagers but even that demographic of the public is far more sophisticated that the filmmakers assume them to be.
Moreover, the New Zealand comedy horror Housebound had the exact same reveal, and because it was treated as a quirky comedy it worked – presented as a super serious twist where we’re supposed to feel scared and amazed it looks unintentionally funny.
The only watchable element in the film is Rupert Evans playing a grocery boy who befriends Greta – firstly because his character is the only one that realizes that they need to get out of the clearly spooky house; and secondly because his solid work in British theater keeps him believable in an otherwise ridiculous plot.
Evans was terrific in an underrated 2014 horror film called The Canal which also had a clichéd story but it was one of those films which was so beautifully directed, that it kept you on the edge of the seat. So if there’s anything good to come out of The Boy, it is people checking out The Canal, a film that deserves a bigger audience.