The Boy

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Release date: 18th March 2016/Watch the trailer here

Recently, it feels like there’s been a frustrating trend for films that show real promise to finish with a conclusion that is rushed, disappointing, or that otherwise detracts from the rest of the film’s potential.

The Boy is one of those promising films. Greta, a young woman from Montana played by The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan, moves to England to escape some personal demons back home and to take on the job of nanny to a young boy. What she doesn’t realise, however, is that the family reside in a huge, creepy old mansion deep in the heart of the English countryside (horror movie cliché number one), and that the boy that she has been tasked with taking care of is, in fact, a doll named Brahms.

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Although the start of The Boy stumbles through a checklist of horror film clichés, right down to Greta taking a nighttime candlelit stroll through the corridors of the mansion while wearing a silk nightdress, it eventually finds its feet as a film that is chillingly unsettling and surprisingly original.

To begin with, Greta sees Brahms as nothing more than an eccentric coping mechanism for the grief felt by his parents (Diana Hardcastle and Jim Norton) at the loss of their son, and she tosses him aside and chooses to ignore the list of strict rules that have been left for her. It is after violating these rules that strange things start to happen and Greta begins to believe that maybe Brahms really is alive.

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It is when Greta accepts the reality of the doll in her charge and attempts to convince others of it that The Boy is at its best. It’s never terrifying beyond the occasional jump scare, but Brahms is a truly creepy figure, and the idea of him being able to move and talk is unsettling enough before Greta begins to respect and even care for the doll as though he is a real, living child. The Boy treads new territory for its genre, but its failure is that it chooses to discard this clever premise in favour of more familiar ground.

The final twist, although not one that you ever see coming, is also one that you’ll wish never came, transforming The Boy from a spooky ghost story into just another slasher film. The result is a banal final fifteen minutes; a conclusion that succeeds in being scary enough, but leaves you wishing for what could have been if the film hadn’t strayed so far from its original path.

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★★

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