I saw The Boy (2016, directed by William Brent Bell) on its opening night. I haven’t been to a first night run of a film since The Woman in Black when I was at Stony Brook. It’s an interesting experience. The theater was packed, and I loved the communal feeling of sitting in a giant room with all these people hearing when they were scared or amused.
An American young woman named Greta (Lauren Cohan) travels to England to be a nanny in order to escape a dark past. What that dark past entails isn’t really a spoiler to me, but some of you might think it is so I’ll let you guess. She’s get to the house, and surprise! The boy is actually a creepy porcelain doll that the elderly couple treat as a real child. The couple immediately leaves for a long overdue vacation so the new nanny is alone with the doll in a giant house far from any neighbors or town. Oh, and the cute grocery man (Rupert Evans) comes by once a week to flirt, I mean deliver food.
The hardest part about reviewing this movie is that what really makes it worth seeing is the element of surprise, and I don’t mean jump scares, though there are a couple of those, too.
It’s not like knowing the big secrets would make the movie unwatchable, just that seeing it for the first time without knowing what’s going to happen is a big deal, and honestly I don’t know that I would watch it more than once more now that I know the big reveals. I think that’s why it’s harder to find thrillers that really stand the test of time.
I’m sure there are people who disagree with me and could point out dozens of films that negate what I just said, but for me the element of surprise is way too important to these types of films to make repeated watchings as enjoyable.
That said, I can talk about some really cool things that I enjoyed without giving away anything for those of you who want to see it, and you totally should do that.
Six things I loved
- I’m still kind of blown away by the beauty of the English country manor where the entire film takes place. It’s kind of a trope in horror films at this point; I mean, I just watched The Haunting (1999, Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones) a few nights ago, and that house was the epitome of this idea. So, yeah, I’m a big fan of giant beautiful old houses in horror films. Or really any films. That’s probably also why I like watching HGTV.
- Lauren Cohan’s facial expressions. She was a really great choice for Greta, who spends most of the movie alone with the doll. She’s the only character on screen for probably 75% of the film, and she’s fabulous.
- Greta. She definitely does some silly things, but ultimately she’s pretty kickass for a horror movie protagonist. She does have some freak-out “I can’t do this” moments, but she’s pretty well-rounded in general.
- Malcolm’s flirting. Creativity and cheese. I like it.
- Wine. There’s a lot of it here. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if the events were actually occurring or if Greta was just drunk. Granted if I were alone in a giant house with a porcelain doll, no cell service, and nothing but some fashion magazines to read, I would drink a lot, too.
- Backstory. Brahm’s backstory is… odd. Ha. Greta’s backstory is a bit tragic, but there’s not really any time reference given, so it feels like it should be very recent, but the fact that her skin is perfect suggests it’s been a while. I don’t know how to feel. But I do know that I like the rounding out of their stories over time rather than in a giant info dump.
And four things that irked me
- One thing about the house that I found a little annoying was the lack of layout. I mean, I’m sure it existed, but there were really no useful establishing shots to orient the viewer as to where in the house the characters were. It was halfway through the film before I realized the kid’s room was right across the hall from Greta’s room.
- The pacing is all kinds of weird. The tense potential jump scare scenes are well-done, but the overall feel of the film is kind of jumpy. It starts slow, like more slowly than really necessary, and then things get crazy. Even in the “real time” of the film. Nothing happens for a week, and then suddenly all hell breaks loose.
- Sometimes Greta’s kickass, independent woman attitude is unnecessary. Wearing nothing but a towel and know a burly guy who fancies me will arrive shortly? Better check out the attic that mysteriously opened itself before he gets here. No need to wait.
- The rules are bullshit. The trailer made a huge deal about “follow his rules” (it’s even in the freaking tagline) but they really don’t have much to do with anything.
There’s a lot more that I could say about this film, but as it did just come out Friday, I won’t. Surprise really is that important to this movie.
I may watch it once more when it hits Netflix, but I doubt I’d watch it more than that. Still, it is worth seeing, and I hope a few of you will check it out, and let me know what you thought.