Synopsis – An American nanny is shocked that her new English family’s boy is actually a life-sized doll. After violating a list of strict rules, disturbing events make her believe that the doll is really alive.
My Take – Horror movies have become so cliched now days its hard decide what to watch especially for a guy like me who is quite choosy about what kind of horror genre I decide to indulgence myself into. So lucky for me when unlike most horror movies, this creepy doll film delivers on what was promised in its trailers – an original & entertaining horror film which does not rely on just jump scares to keep the audience involved in its proceedings. This film directed by William Brent Bell (who also helmed 2012’s “The Devil Inside”) masters the slow build up, & making us wonder throughout the film who’s crazy and who’s not, as of course he gives us a few good gotcha-type scares along the way. Writer Stacey Menear‘s script keeps us guessing and then brings everything together in a pretty good twist that few of us may see it coming and without resorting to cheap tricks. This film skillfully blends some elements of earlier horror movies like “The Shining” (1980), “Child’s Play” (1988) and “The Others” (2001), but has a fresh and even more modern feel to it. Sure, the film has a pretty generic and cliched premise “a girl, running from her past, is asked to babysit a boy, or a doll rather, and is left alone for weeks by herself in an old mansion that is extremely secluded from other homes,” but really who cares when the film is good. The story follows Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan), a young Montana woman who is restarting her life.
To escape an abusive relationship with her former boyfriend, Cole (Ben Robson), she leaves America & gets hired as a nanny for the wealthy Mr. and Mrs.Heelshire (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle), an eccentric older couple living in a big, isolated house in the English countryside. Unusual stuff, but things definitely move to weird-slash-creepy when Greta first sets eyes on her young charge. The “boy” that Greta is supposed to care for turns out to be a marionette-like porcelain doll. Greta thinks it’s all a joke, but the Heelshires aren’t laughing. They lost their son, Brahms (Jett Klyne), in a house fire on the boy’s 8th birthday. They coped with their loss by starting to care for a doll which looks like their son and is about the size of an 8-year-old boy. They’ve been calling this doll “Brahms” and treating him like a real boy for about 20 years. Now, it’s Greta’s turn. After giving Greta detailed instructions regarding Brahms’ care and leaving her with a clipboard containing a list of ten rules, the Heelshires drive away for their first vacation in “a very long time.” Greta is now alone with Brahms in that big WIFI less house. Her only contacts with the outside world are her friend, Sandy (Stephanie Lemelin), whom Greta calls regularly from an old rotary-dial phone, and Malcolm (Rupert Evans), the handsome young local man who delivers groceries and brings mail to the house about once a week. At first, Greta treats the doll as most of us would, tossing it aside and ignoring it. But the longer Greta ignores that list, the more strange things begin to happen in that house. Her clothes disappear. She gets locked in the attic. She finds a mess in Brahms’ bedroom. She starts to hear noises and see shadows. Greta is creeped out and begins having scary nightmares about Brahms. Then, the doll starts showing up in places other than where Greta left him. Its upto Malcolm & Greta to find out what is actually happening. Dolls usually scare people for various reasons, and this doll is no different. The whole time you’re guessing how and why the doll is doing the things that its doing and there were plenty of weird ways to go about revealing that. Luckily the film does a good job at covering the reveal with multiple other cliched possibilities that we all (including myself) believed it would be, thankfully the director went in a different direction, even though at first I was not pleased by the end result, but in comparison to the other films of the same genre, I must say it was a good turn. By isolating the film in a giant English country estate, director William Brent Bell managed to create a creepy sense of atmosphere.
That kind of limits the scenery, but the interiors of the house were shot very well. There is something about old people’s old houses that are kind of creepy to begin with. They are especially creepy when they don’t change much over time and still have a lot of old creepy appliances and toys. Lauren Cohan is best known for playing the character of Maggie on the hit cable TV show The Walking Dead. Being a regular viewer of the show, Cohan was honestly the main reason I walked into this one. And to my surprise she actually gave quite a solid performance. I’ve seen a lot of actresses in horror movies fail in portraying their emotions while being freaked out or afraid and Cohan actually pulled off those elements very well. Rupert Evans who plays the grocery delivery man also does a good job as the character Malcolm who is really Greta’s only ally throughout most of the movie. On the whole, ‘The Boy’ is a fresh & entertaining treat for everyone. Horror movies that come out in the dead movie month of January are usually pretty bad but I have to say that The Boy was at least a decent movie. Yes, Its not going to keep you awake at night like great horrors do, but Its not going to disappoint either. I’m really glad to see someone from a prominent television show make a good transition and show promise for a future film career, well done Lauren Cohan.
Director – William Brent Bell
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 97 minutes