Today, Friday, January 22, marks the theater debut of William Brent Bell’s The Boy. This horror-thriller follows Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan), a young American woman who takes a job as a nanny in a remote English village, only to discover that the family’s 8-year-old son Brahms (Jett Klyne) is not really an eight-year-old boy, but a life-size porcelain doll that the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle) care for the way they would a real boy, as a method of coping with the death of their real son 20 years earlier. After violating a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring Greta’s worst nightmare to live, leading her to believe that the doll really is alive.
Bloody-Disgusting describes the The Boy as a film that “manages to entertain despite its silly premise.” Blood-Disgusting gives its thoughts on the film and what makes it more successful than other recently released horror films:
“STX Entertainment’s first movie of 2016 is The Boy, a fun little thriller about a woman who must babysit a really creepy looking doll. Being the second wide-release horror film to come out this year (the first being the disappointing ghost story The Forest), it’s understandable to be wary. We all know that horror films released in January aren’t exactly known to be of the highest quality, but The Boy proves to be one of the more successful entries in the evil doll sub-genre, poking fun at itself at all the right moments. It is quite a bit of fun, despite its lack of inspiration.”
A good amount of The Boy consists of Cohan walking around a mansion. While many film-goers may assume this to be boring (and recently released horror films with the same trait proves this), director Bell (The Devil Inside, Stay Alive) does a good job at grabbing the audience’s attention and holding onto it throughout the entire film.
However, even though The Boy seems to do a better job at actually making audiences want to keep watching, it’s not perfect, of course. The lack or originality is regrettable, as The Boy doesn’t feature anything we have never seen in other horror movies. Another qualm some critics have with Bell’s direction is that he relies a little too heavily on jump scares and fake-out dream sequences (not only one dream sequence but two…it’s a bit excessive). These techniques can prove tempting to novice directors, but they ultimately cheapen the film-watching experience.
As stated earlier, Bell for the most part, does a good job holding the audience’s attention—which of course, is crucial for a film to be successful—but The Boy doesn’t really do him the justice as a director. Bell is far from a “novice director”, but the fact that he has resorted to these unimpressive scare tactics limits greater possibilities for the film’s success and unfortunately, Bell, who has been directing for over a decade, may need to work extra hard in his next project to redeem himself. But to be fair, maybe also give his previous films like The Devil Inside and Staying Alive a chance. The director may have had a misstep, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to be deemed a poor director; that’s not the case at all. If anything, Bell was trapped in from the beginning in directing a film with a premise that is unoriginal. At least the director does receive praise for doing a better job entertaining-wise than other recent horror films though; as said before, if the audience likes it…it’s successful in the most important way it could be.
Rotten Tomatoes shows that The Boy receives an audience score of 73 per cent or a 3.9 out of 5 (with 7,742 user ratings). The film has not received many scores yet on other critic sites, but Metacritic shows some critical reviews from credible sources, such as The A.V. Club. Kate Rife from A.V. has something positive to add not necessarily about the film, but about the fact that the film was made: “At least maybe The Boy can lead some novices [directors] to better, more original horror movies.”