Creepy dolls in the horror genre are nothing new; from The Twilight Zone’s “Living Doll” episode to The Conjuring’s lame spin-off Annabelle we’ve been subjected to countless iteration of the scary doll motif. In the film, The Boy takes the sub-genre to an even deeper level of lameness than we got with the likes of Annabelle or that terrible Poltergeist remake. Director William Brent Bell knows how to create an atmosphere of fear and dread, but then he tosses that all aside for cheap jumps scares. Worse is that two of those jump scares are of the “It was just a dream” variety. I haven’t been so annoyed with dream sequences since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Though to be fair The Boy came out before the BvS movie, but this film could have been improved vastly if one of the dreams had The Flash travelling back in time to warn us to not watch this movie.
The movie begins with young American Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) arriving at an imposing English mansion where she has accepted a babysitting job. The job is to take care of eight-year-old Brahms while his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton/Diana Hardcastle), take off for a much-deserved holiday. There is only one small problem; Brahms is not a real boy but a life-sized porcelain doll. It’s at this point a rational person would be trying to see how fast they can get that cab back but not our Greta, she just rolls with it as Mrs. Heelshire informs Greta of all her responsibilities in caring for Brahms; read to him, dress and feed him, and play loud Gregorian music. So right off the bat writer Stacey Meaner hands us a premise that is incredibly hard to swallow, and as the movie continues it just gets harder and harder. Who in their right mind would stay and do this job? Let’s check off the red flags, shall we?
Consider the suspension of disbelief broken. Sure we get a backstory that Greta has fled Montana to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend, but is this the only job on the planet? I don’t care how much they are paying her for this gig because even if there isn’t anything supernatural going on it still means your employers are a little bit crazy. Who needs that shit on top of a stalking ex-boyfriend? The movie does establish quickly how Greta is not the most level-headed thinker; when the Heelshires depart for their holiday after Mrs. Heelshire creepily whispers into Greta’s ear, “I’m sorry.” She once again fails to take the hint and calls a cab. During a stormy night, she discovers that someone has cut a lock of her hair, stolen her necklace while she was showering and when she hears what sounds like a child’s laugh, and footsteps in the hall, she goes to investigate, but when she finds the ladder to the attic mysteriously down what does she do?
It just gets worse from here. Local grocery delivery man Malcolm (Rupert Evans), tells Greta that the Heelshire’s lost their son on his eighth birthday in a tragic fire and that the doll appeared shortly afterwards. She is also told that Brahms was an “odd” boy and it is rumoured he could have been responsible for the murder of the local girl. It’s also noted that the fire happened the same day as the murder, just before authorities had a chance to question Brahms. Does Greta now ask Malcolm to help her pack and drive her to the airport? No, she hangs around this spooky ass house as objects continue to apparently move on their own, and a child’s voice on the telephone asks her to, “Come play, pretty Greta” and “Why won’t you follow the rules?” Brahms even leaves her favourite sandwich outside her door. It’s at this point that Greta comes to the realization that somehow the ghost of the dead child inhabits the doll, and it’s because he is shy that no one sees him when he moves. Yeah, that makes sense. So Greta decides to take the job seriously and begins to treat the doll-like real child, and she follows the list given to her by the Heelshires, a list which mysteriously appeared next to the doll.
- No Guests
- Never Leave Brahms Alone
- Save Meals in Freezer
- Never Cover Brahms’ Face
- Read a Bedtime Story
- Play Music Loud
- Clean the Traps
- Only Malcolm Brings Deliveries
- Brahms is Never to Leave
- Kiss Goodnight
But they completely forgot:
- No Bright Lights
- Don’t get Him Wet
- Never Feed Him After Midnight
It’s at this point I suspected that Greta had actually gone nuts from shock, but soon she enlists Malcolm in her insanity, even getting Brahms’ help proving that he is, in fact, alive. Greta treats this all with a giddy sense of fun, kind of like the way the mom in the original Poltergeist reacted to the furniture moving on its own, but in that case, a dead kid and voices on the phone weren’t a factor. Malcolm even tries to float the idea that they don’t know for sure if this spirit isn’t malevolent, and that odd little Brahms could have been a murderer. Greta pooh-poohs this as her sweet porcelain Brahms would never hurt her.
How did this jerk track her to England all the way from Montana you ask? Well turns out he banged on her family’s door, telling them he was sorry and wanted to send her a letter apologizing for the whole abuse and miscarriage that resulted. Do her parents offer to mail the letter for him? No, they give him her address in England so that he can continue to stalk her and violate the restraining order. Either her parents are dumber than she is or they want her dead for some reason. Regardless, Cole (Ben Robson), her psychotic ex-boyfriend, shows up unannounced and tells her that he has plane tickets for the both of them to return to Montana the very next day, needless to say, Brahms is not cool with that.
Despite Malcolm showing up and giving her an easy out, Greta doesn’t ask for his help, nor does she call the local authorities or do much of anything aside from offering Cole a pillow and a blanket. During the night Cole is woken by dripping blood as someone has used dead rats to write “Get Out” in blood on the wall above him. Cole rightfully freaks out and accuses Greta of writing the message, but while Greta tries to explain to Cole that it is the doll’s doing Malcolm arrives, (he was waiting outside in his car like a useless twit) and the two try and convince Cole that the doll is alive. Cole does the next most sensible thing, he smashes the porcelain doll’s head to smithereens. This results in the room erupting with weird rumblings as the walls begin to shake, and just as Cole presses his ear against a large mirror and says, “Shhh, there’s something…” the mirror explodes in his stupid face.
Yeah, turns out that Brahms (James Russell) didn’t actually die in the fire all those years ago but has been living in the walls the entire time and he just sneaks out to move the doll around to vicariously live through his porcelain avatar. sigh Up to this point the film had been a fairly ridiculous horror film, one that at times managed to give a person goosebumps, well, when it wasn’t going for cheap jumps scares that is, but this twist reveal is just plain terrible and not even all that original. Back in 2009, there was an episode of Supernatural where a supposed haunted house turned out not to be haunted but, instead, there was a crazy person living in the walls, so not only was this script full of unbelievable stupid characters it wasn’t even all that original. The film then tries to turn itself into a chapter of Friday the 13th as the masked killer stalks Greta and Malcolm through the house.
The problem here is that Brahms isn’t some unstoppable supernatural force, like Jason Voorhees, he’s just some dude that’s been living in the walls for twenty years. Malcolm and Greta repeatedly knock the guy down but they constantly run off instead of just hitting him a couple more times to finish him off. The film then has the audacity to rip off the scene from Friday the 13th Part 2 where the Final Girl disguises herself as Jason’s mom to get close enough to deal a fatal blow. In this film, Greta just tells Brahms that she is willing to be his babysitter and then she stabs him during their goodnight kiss. She, and the surprisingly not dead Malcolm, drive off into the sunset while the camera tracks through the house to reveal Brahms is alive and is now restoring the doll.
This is a well-shot movie, and the director does manage to give us some genuine scares, but the script is so unbelievably stupid that whatever goodwill the actors and director managed to earn is completely blown away during the last act. It’s no surprise that this film was released during the January dumping grounds along with The Forest.
The Boy (2016)
Poor Maggie from The Walking Dead should stick to zombies and stay away from creepy dolls. This is one of those horror films where you spend most your time yelling at the stupid characters and their moronic actions. Put this doll back on the shelf.