The Boy (2016)
Oh...The Boy. What to say about this one? Let me just jump right in and say it - I didn't like The Boy, but I did (slightly) enjoy some of the risks it took.
We begin the film meeting Greta, a young American woman who's been hired by an elderly English couple to watch their son, Brahms, while they go away for a much needed holiday. Greta's excited to get away, as she has some trouble at home in the form of an abusive partner and this nanny gig seems like the perfect opportunity to put some space between herself and her problems.
The house - as any decent gothic-style horror film requires - is a big, rambling estate in the countryside, and is filled with the sort of things that make people distinctly uncomfortable, like antiques and taxidermy. Greta is first greeted by the cute grocery delivery guy named Malcolm (of COURSE, he's cute!), then meets her new employers - Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire - who are very odd indeed.
Even stranger, Greta is then introduced to Brahms who just happens to be a doll. A doll that's to be treated like a human. Brahms likes to be read to. Brahms likes to listen to classical music. Brahms needs to be fed and changed before bedtime. It's truly creepy and unsettling, and you can't quite decide if these people are suffering some sort of dual dementia, are using Brahms as a way to deal with the death of their real son, or if there's really something supernatural going on that causes Brahms to essentially be alive.
Now, any self-respecting horror fan - like you and I - would've NOPED the fuck right out of there immediately, but not Greta. Oh, no...Greta is a champ, and more importantly, Greta has nothing to return to at home. In fact, what awaits her at home is far worse than dealing with babysitting a doll, strange thought it may be. So she settles in, at first treating Brahms like what he is. She tosses him around carelessly, doesn't follow the exacting schedule she's been given for his proper care, and basically shuffles around the house drinking wine, looking bored and disinterested, with brief spates of flirting with Malcolm when he comes by to drop off groceries. This continues until (and you all knew there was an "until" coming...), Brahms demonstrates some peculiar abilities, like being able to move on his own. And in the beginning, this DELIGHTS Greta. Which is baffling. But...whatever, okay.
It was here that the film took a twist that I wasn't expecting, and it was a somehwat refreshing departure from what is a very stale and overused horror trope. Instead, it used a *slightly* less stale and overused horror trope, though many horror fans will be familiar with the storyline. I won't say much more than that, so that I don't entirely spoil the film, but I was happy to see the narrative at least take the risk to make a different choice than what I, and most likely many other viewers, had anticipated. That doesn't mean it was a perfect choice. But an A for effort and giving us something even a little different.
I also have to say that it was beautifully filmed, and gave me the feeling that I was watching a modernized version of an old, gothic horror film. I was also happy to see that Greta, despite some foolish decisions throughout the film, was given the chance to be her own hero. And the acting was also solid.
Unfortunately, The Boy is fairly boring and not at all scary. Once the "twist" is revealed, you know exactly where it's going. It's at this point that there's a weird shift in tone that I wasn't happy with, where we lose the Gothic atmosphere that's been so lovingly built throughout the film and it feels more like a horror movie from the 70s or 80s. It was jarring, and it felt sloppy and out of character.
The Boy isn't Terrible with a capital T, but it isn't good either, and falls more towards the "not good" end of the scale than the other. One thing some viewers will learn though - never, ever take on the job of nannying a life-size doll in the remote English countryside, no matter how much the gig pays. But, we horror fans already knew that, didn't we?