BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE BOY (2016)
The amount of films whose premise is a creepy doll or at least a film containing a some creepy dolls in it are almost never ending. Maybe not never ending, but I easily found 30 or more films that have dolls in them and all the dolls are evil bastards. We have the whole
CHILD’S PLAY franchise with the Good Guy Doll Chucky. We have the infamous Zuni warrior doll in made-for-tv’s TRILOGY OF TERROR, the doll being the star of the finest of the three segments, opposite one of actress Karen Black’s finer performances. Just look up some of the titles in Full Moon’s catalog of lower-budgeted B-films and one can pick out any of the PUPPETMASTER flicks or go with DOLLMAN, DEMONIC TOYS, BAD CHANNELS, DOLL GRAVEYARD, BLOOD DOLLS, etc…
In fact, some of the films containing dolls that gave me more serious qualms about how sinister dolls really are (or can be) include the film MAGIC, starring Anthony Hopkins in an incredible performance. Take that home and give it a view. Modern-films such as THE CONJURING (2013) and its spin-off ANNABELLE (2014) take the doll premise in a more plausible direction, but that really may be stretching things quite a bit. Whether one is watching oldies like ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958) or DEAD OF NIGHT (1945), or more current aged stuff deemed a classic creepy doll flick like 1987’s DOLLS, the porcelain faces with glass eyeballs on miniature clothed bodies always have creeped the hell out of me. Some are rubber and some are simply various fabrics of cloth for materials, but they all have a creep factor for me and many others.
Director William Brent Bell (THE DEVIL INSIDE, STAY ALIVE, WER) is back with a PG-13 horror-thriller entitled THE BOY , starring THE WALKING DEAD’s Lauren Cohan as Greta Evans, a cute American gal from Montana who has been hired to watch a small boy in the United Kingdom for the seemingly rich Heelshire family. Parents Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (who look to be grandparents and not parents of a young boy) give Greta (Cohan) the rundown of the job and introduce her to Brahms, their 8-year old boy…who is actually a damn creepy-as-all-hell porcelain doll with glass eyes. Greta (Cohan) is just as confused as I was watching THE BOY at first, wondering why the hell anyone would pay good money to have a damn baby doll babysat for a couple of months. The parents give her a list of his routines (or strict rules), talk to him like a real little boy, and act overall wacko about the whole situation.
When Greta (Cohan) meets young grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans), viewers get the idea that he is more sane and this is spot on as he elaborates on how things are and why things are. The grocer runs the grocery store in town somewhere and brings in weekly groceries and Greta’s pay. Malcolm also is a family friend and knows the most about the whole creepy situation. The story goes like this:
There was a tragic fire and 8-year old Brahms died in it and the parents have this doll that they treat as if it were actually Brahms.
Kind of a scary thought because the house is secluded in the middle of nowhere, well hidden from woods and tall fences, and has no internet, cell service, or television. Aside from some old-school rotary dial phones, one is locked out from the outside world unless venturing out on foot past the property and into the nearest town.
Contrary to other reviews and sentiments, I found the film to be quite entertaining and a large part of that was due to the solid performances given by all on the screen. Lauren Cohan really carried this entire film, delivering each line with conviction and beautiful charm. I am glad she is doing other scary projects besides the popular zombie television series and hopes she continues to do so. I also enjoyed the well-shot camera work throughout the film, capturing dark angles and views of the doll in various scenes, as well as utilizing the old, Gothic-Victorian-Hammer-esque style of architecture and the ghoulish atmosphere it invoked on camera. I guess many of the elements of THE BOY are quite cliche and common in many horror films of the genre, but it worked for me. The premise of a doll being spiritual or invoked with the spirit of the dead boy may be an overused plot point, but there are some twists within the film and a good deal of cheap jump scares in the movie that if one goes along with the premise without laughing or analyzing the ridiculousness of it all, the film can be a fun zinger.
Possessed dolls never get old or lose their scariness to me, but THE BOY does really have a twist sort of ending that I guess I missed completely. Watching the movie the 2nd time, I did notice some subtle hints throughout the film that could have led me to catch on the film’s climactic ending, but I was having too good a time just enjoying the flick as it was. Since the movie is only rated PG-13, do not expect Lauren Cohan to share any private areas with viewers in the shower scene or in the one underwear scene in the film. As well as being tame in the sex and nudity department, the blood and guts factor is non-existent so don’t look for any big splashes of blood or heavy gore within. Like I mentioned earlier, the performances, atmosphere, camerawork, and doll creep factor were what won me over with this film.
An interesting note on THE BOY is that the film was originally titled THE INHABITANT (which may have given away some of the mystery of the film with that title), and on IMDB.com it states that the film also was originally titled “IN A DARK PLACE” and had cast Jane Levy (EVIL DEAD (2013)) in the lead role. THE BOY also was not screened for critics anywhere except in Germany. I don’t know why they exclusively allowed the Germans to see it, but based on most American critics reviews of the film, they did not care for it as much as I did. If one is basing the movie on the plausibility of events within, stop watching the popcorn horror flick and throw C-SPAN on for hard facts because this film takes some liberties with realism and has goofy, dark fun with it.
The blu-ray I am reviewing is just a single-disc blu-ray + digital HD (not a blu-ray/dvd combo) and has zero extra features. I thought there would have at least been a cheesy featurette on the disc, but not even that. There are some trailers and with your blu-ray player hooked up to the internet, there may be some online content to pair itself with the movie and “enhance” it, but I didn’t care to further investigate that route. The blu-ray retails for $34.98 but most places have it for sale for about $20. The film is presented in a widescreen format (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in English, comes with English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles. The Universal Studios Home Entertainment film runs about 98 minutes.
With a shell of a story designed for effective creepy jump scares and total atmosphere backed up by very compelling and invested performances by Cohan and her co-stars, I actually welcome THE BOY into the ranks of totally ridiculous to semi-ridiculous movies with dolls in them. I recommend this movie for those that hate dolls as much as I do, appreciate a decent PG-13 film with an attractive lead and quite a few jump scares. Throw in some nice camerawork, a sinister soundtrack of original music by Bear McCreary (THE WALKING DEAD, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), give actress Lauren Cohan kudos for starring in her first horror film, although horror is nothing new to this veteran of zombie television fame.