31 Screams in October, Vol. 3, #9: The Boy (2016)

Posted: October 9, 2016 in Movie Review
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9. The Boy (2016)

Director: William Brent Bell

Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans

Generally speaking, I am weary of horror films with stories that center around an inanimate object as the source of the scares. When it’s a doll, that doll pretty much has to come to life and speak with the voice of Brad Dourif in order to maintain my interest. Failing that, the only alternative is for the plot to subvert my expectations. I really thought I had 2016’s “The Boy” pegged early on. I am thrilled to say I was wrong.

Greta (Lauren Cohan) is a young American woman who has taken a job as a nanny in Britain. She has done this in the hope that she can put behind her an abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Cole. Her life is about to get a whole lot stranger upon meeting the Heelshires, who have tasked Greta with looking after their son, Brahms. The catch is that their “son” is a porcelain doll. It seems there really was a Brahms, but he is said to have perished in a fire in 1991 at age 8. How is Greta supposed to take such a thing seriously? To her credit, and presumably because the alternative of returning home to Montana is less appealing, Greta soldiers on.

Greta has been given a list of rules, which she is instructed must be followed to the letter. She does so at first, but it’s around the time that she starts getting close to the local grocery delivery boy, Malcolm (Rupert Evans)… whom she notes is around the same age that Brahms would be… that things start getting weird. First, Greta periodically hears strange noises, like a child whimpering. Then, Brahms appears to demonstrate the ability to move on his own, as the doll is rarely ever in the same place as where she leaves him after she walks out of the room. One night, when Greta is all dressed up to go on a date with Malcolm, she becomes locked in the attic, forced to spend the night there. During this time a sandwich is passed to her underneath the door.

Greta’s experiences have her convinced that the doll is alive. She attempts to explain her theory to Malcolm, but he doesn’t believe it until she’s able to demonstrate that the doll moves when they aren’t watching it. Malcolm tells Greta about how there once was a girl about the same age as Brahms who was a playmate of his. Shortly before the fire that killed Brahms, the girl died under gruesome circumstances, and it is this fact that makes Malcolm feel concern for Greta’s safety. But Greta reveals something about her past: the fact that she one had a miscarriage. Her motherly instincts dictate that she must stay and care for Brahms.

Unbeknownst to anyone at this point, the Heelshires have committed suicide by drowning. They’d been acting rather odd all along, and it is this final act that would seem to confirm that Greta has been used as an escape route for them. For the two of them to give up on life entirely also suggests that nothing good can come of staying inside that house. Just as Greta will not leave Brahms, it seems that her ex-boyfriend has not given up his pursuit of her. Through some poking and prodding, Cole has managed to learn of Greta’s location and how to get there. One night he just sort of shows up. He tries to get her to fly back to America with him, but she refuses, much to his shagrin.

Cole becomes angrier still when he finds a message meant for him written in blood on the wall. He assumes it’s Greta’s doing. When she insists that it’s Brahms who did it, Cole wrestles the doll away from her and smashes it to pieces! It was at this point that I expected the reveal to be that Malcolm was the grown-up Brahms all along. But that’s not what happens. What does happen shifts the tone of the movie from gothic horror to a “Halloween” clone in the final act. I can see how this reveal would come off looking pretty silly, but then the film’s entire premise was a bit weird from the start. As impractical an ending as it may be, I like it because the story had been good, yet unremarkable up to this point.

Actress Lauren Cohan has to be considered as the chief reason for watching “The Boy.” As most who are familiar with her have, I first became aware of Cohan through her work on TV’s “The Walking Dead.” Here, she is every bit as sympathetic as she is when fighting off zombie hordes. I don’t know that I would have otherwise sought out “The Boy” had Cohan not been involved, though I am thankful that I did. While not the most inspiring or original, it does reminds us of that which we have lost sight in recent years; that a horror movie doesn’t have to carry an R rating in order to entertain.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Like you, I would watch it to see Lauren Cohen, and yes, it is good to know an R rating is not always necessary.

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