I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 15 years.
William Brent Bell
Those of you who know me in real life know how much I heart dolls. You’ve been over to the house and “accidentally” walked in on me shoving <Redacted because of immoral, gross, and somewhat illegal (in most states). Stop reading this review right now > the lemon juice stings a bit but you get used to it after a while.
Sorry. I didn’t realize I just wrote 700 words on what I do with dolls. You know what they say about writing about what you know and love.
So how does The Boy measure up considering the usual January flaccidity and the 2 other major releases opening this weekend?
Surprisingly well. The Boy really isn’t that bad. In January, that means kind of good. Much better than The Forest. More than likely, it’s the best film of January unless you’re the type of person who’d actually pay money to see a Kevin Hart film. And if you are, you don't have much discernment, but that’s beside the point.
We should rejoice that something good opened in January. Maybe celebrate and actually watch it before it disappears once February rolls around.
The Boy opens with a young woman being driven to a stately yet seemingly deserted manor on the English countryside. Her name is Greta Evans (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan, a British woman playing an American who’s going to Britain for the first time) and she’s an American who’s going to Britain for the first time. Her accent’s a little singsong, but there’s a really good reason for that.
Greta’s traveled overseas for reasons we’ll learn later, but ostensibly she’s hired as the nanny for the super British couple by the name of Heelshire.
Mrs. Heelshire (Diana “Soft Moat” Hardcastle) is old.
So is Mr. Heelshire (Jim “The Antivirus” Norton).
The Heelshires are going on holiday for the first time in a very long while- for you Americans, “going on holiday” means something like “going on vacation”…I think- and they need someone to watch over their young son Brahms. They’re willing to pay a pretty penn-- um, pound to whoever will do so. And they don’t want to be made fun of for naming their son Brahms no matter how dorky it is.
Greta is there for the money and because she’s fleeing an abusive relationship.
Mrs. Heelshire says that Brahms has rejected the other possible nannies. This bodes well for Greta.
Lady Heelshire introduces Greta to Brahms.
Brahms is a doll. Not the 50s euphemism “doll” but an actual porcelain doll with shiny head and floppy arms and glassy eyes and an oval mouth.
Greta thinks it’s a joke. Lady Heelshire assures her it is not. Brits are not capable of humor unless the words “Monty Python” or “Bean” are involved.
Heelshire gives a quick training session on how to take care of Brahms and Greta is going along because it seems like easy money until Mrs. Heelshire gets weirdly anal when Greta doesn’t do something exactly right.
Mrs. Heelshire informs Greta that Brahms has “chosen” her and that she’ll be hired on for a few months. That sounds great-a.
The Heelshires give Greta a handy list on how to take care of Brahms when they’re gone. 10 easy steps that read just like the rules you follow to keep gremlins in check. Brahms likes it when you dress him and loud classical music. Typical Brit.
Once Greta’s all set, the Heelshires can’t wait to GTFO of their house. Before they leave Mrs. Heelshire whispers “I’m sorry” into Greta’s ear. Which doesn’t sound ominous at all when you’re babysitting a creepy non-inflatable doll.
Oh yeah. Before she met the Heelshires, Greta was introduced to Malcolm (Hellboy’s Rupert Evans, which reminds me I rarely get to type the name “Rupert”). He’s the delivery boy (“Delivery MAN”) and judging by the way he’s trying to flirt with her, he hasn’t seen a woman that wasn’t from Heelshire in months.
Now that you think about it, Greta is the only woman within miles under the age of 65 so it’s natural that Rupert break out his best pimp moves like gum reading (don’t ask) and awkward Hugh Grant stammering. He seems like such a nice guy we hope he’s not holding a deep dark secret while we wonder how much being a delivery boy pays.
Malcolm greets Brahms warmly, which makes Greta think this is typical British behavior. Downton Abbey got it wrong.
Before they finally leave, Mr. Heelshire takes Greta aside and mentions that “Brahms is all around” despite what it may look like in the outside. That doesn’t sound ominous at all. First night jitters are assuaged when Greta finds Brahms leering at her while she’s in the shower. Five minutes of screen time later she’s in a towel and trapped in an attic while Brahms seems to be able to change positions a lot and use a rotary phone.
You don’t often see that type of mobility in an inanimate object.
Greta will soon learn from exposition Malcolm about Brahms’s checkered past. She may not live to regret going to another country to take care of a doll.
Stay in an abusive relationship or else you will die at the hands of a children‘s toy. That’s the moral of this story.
What Works With The Boy
- For 80 of the movie’s 90 minute running time, I kept expecting it to fall apart to the usual dreck we’re used to this time of year. It’s a tribute to director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside, Wer) and writer Stacy Menear and middling expectations that the film stays afloat and actually delivers some well-rendered scares…except when it doesn’t.
- (Spoiler) A well-enough executed twist reminiscent of the (Massive Spoiler) New Zealand horror-comedy Housebound. If you get the parallel, then that should determine how much you’ll enjoy the final 15 minutes of the movie.
What Doesn't Work With The Boy
- Again, I’m surprised at how well most of the movie works considering that within the first 45 minutes there are not one, but two it-was-only-a-dream scares. There has to be some kind of Wikipedia entry about how that stopped being scary circa 1978.
Come for the boy, stay for the doll. The Boy is the best movie opening this weekend as Dirty Grandpa and The 5th Wave are both pretty awful.