The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.
Story & Script
The Boy is a surprisingly intimate story in terms of scope. It follows two characters, and a creepy doll. As the story opens we meet Greta (played by The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), who is an American traveling to England to be nanny to a young boy. Or so she thinks. She soon discovers that the “boy” she is babysitting is a doll, but the parents treat this doll as their only son, Brahms. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, there are hints dropped that if Greta doesn’t follow the set of ten rules that they’ve given her every day, Brahms will not be a nice boy. The parents leave for vacation, and Greta is left alone in this giant English home with just a creepy doll and a set of rules. As the days go on, she begins to hear things, and eventually suspects that the doll may actually be housing the spirit of Brahms.
What I love about The Boy is that it takes interesting steps to get to its final, surprising conclusion. I did not see the ending coming at all, which is always a positive. Some have complained about this ending, but the film is good enough that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, and just accept it without having to ask a ton of questions. Greta does have a love interest in this, and he is the charming Malcolm (played by Rupert Evans). This aspect of the story feels natural and sincere instead of shoehorned like it normally does, which is refreshing. The vast majority of the story is these two characters and the doll, and it is never boring.
Lauren Cohan and Rupert Evans have an excellent on-screen chemistry. Both are attractive, flirtatious, and genuine. I love watching them together, and they’re able to produce a surprising amount of laughs together. The opening moments with these characters are so important to set the relationship because when things take a darker turn, it’s these moments that will make or break whether or not we care about their future. Fortunately these two strong actors nail every scene they’re in, and it elevates The Boy to another level. The supporting cast does a great job as well, but, frankly, they could be terrible and the film would still hold up because of Cohan and Evans.
James Wan is one of the best directors in the genre, but unfortunately he was unable to deliver any effective scares with his living dummy film, Dead Silence. Fortunately William Brent Bell uses the natural creepiness of the Brahms doll in a smarter way, and is able to generate some genuinely unsettling, atmospheric moments. Jump scares are definitely present, and Bell got me on more than a couple occasions, which I enjoyed. Better than those jump scares, though, are the moments where Bell shows restraint. Instead of making something go “boo”, he uses a longer-than-necessary take on an unmoving doll’s face, for example, and our imagination runs wild.
It doesn’t take a lot to scare me, that’s true. But even with that said, The Boy creeps the hell out of me. The atmosphere that Bell is able to manage using only one real location, and a very limited cast is nothing short of impressive.
I genuinely want to watch The Boy again already. It’s one I will definitely have in my collection when it releases on Blu-ray, hopefully filled with extras.
The name William Brent Bell may not be a household name, even for genre fans. Yes, he directed The Devil Inside (which I have not seen, but cannot recall one positive review on the film when it was released), but he also did a film back in 2006 called Stay Alive. That one mixed elements of the slasher film with the supernatural, and incorporated video games into the mix. I love Stary Alive, and find it to be incredibly underrated. I have a feeling I will have to say the same thing about The Boy in ten years. It may have familiar tones, but the product as a whole is so well done that it’s easy to look past that fact and just enjoy the ride. It was clear that the audience in my theatre had a great time with the movie, and I imagine you will too if you’re a genre fan. The Boy comes highly recommended.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.