On the run from an abusive boyfriend, American Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) takes up a job as a nanny in a remote English manor. Upon arrival she discovers her charge is not a child but a porcelain doll named Brahms. When Brahm’s elderly ‘parents’ go on vacation, leaving Greta alone in the house with the doll, she begins to fear supernatural forces have brought Brahms to life.
The Boy is neither great nor awful, presenting itself instead as a middle-of-the-road but competently made supernatural thriller. There are worse thrillers out there, and there are better. It all makes it a hell of a thing to write about. Should you make the time to see it? If you’re a fan of the genre, probably, I guess. Should you avoid it? Not really – there are many worse options to entertain you, unless you’re particularly uncomfortable with films about creepy old houses and ominous dolls. It is what it is, and does a serviceable three-star job of things.
For the most part The Boy trades in overly familiar tropes of the haunted house genre. It is an effective set-up for a horror work, and has been revisited quite a bit in recent years. While The Boy has a nicely creepy atmosphere and tone, it rarely undertakes anything that has not been done before. What highlights there are are effective and admirable, but collectively do not quite deal in anything sufficiently original. Variations on themes seems the watch-word for writer Stacey Menear, and stock creaky walls and floors the rule for director Willian Brent Bell (The Devil Inside). It is all disposable entertainment, but at least it is broadly entertaining.
Like the film itself, the acting is solid but unremarkable. To an extent this is a fault of the screenplay: the characters are fairly naturalistic but are not actually interesting. Rupert Evans in particular struggles in his role; a blandly appealing English ‘lad’ with a line in flirting and trying to be ruggedly ‘charming’. Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle are nicely unsettling as Brahm’s odd ‘parents’, but their overall contribution to the film is quite small. Lauren Cohan is essentially the most generic character of the picture, and often seems so bland it is a wonder she was given a name and was not simply credited as ‘the girl’.
Some unexpected plot shifts during the climax actually do come as something of a surprise, and at least gives The Boy a strong basis on which to leave the screen. A sequel followed in early 2020; that, much more than the original, feels wholly unnecessary. As a watchable self-contained work, The Boy is at least enjoyable enough to not feel as if time has been wasted. With its entire back story and characters laid bare, one wonders what a sequel could possibly add.