It's very hard for me to write reviews about horror films like this without including spoilers, because all I want to do is talk about the big twist that generally occurs towards the end. When I saw The Visit, I was blown away and couldn't stop talking about that twist. I didn't see it coming. With The Boy, I didn't see said twist coming, but the overall shock factor did eventually wear off. This is somewhat of the case with the film itself: rather scary at first, but the shock tones down after awhile. By the time that you've adjusted to what's going on, it's not really as horrifying anymore. Scary, but not horrifying.
Lauren Cohan (of The Walking Dead fame) plays Greta, a young woman traveling from Montana to England where she takes a nanny position with a wealthy family in order to escape something that's been bothering her in America. We're given hints throughout the film, and then learn through a series of phone calls (and eventual confrontation with the cause of this problem) that Greta was physically abused by an asshole ex-boyfriend. So she escapes the situation, after filing a restraining order, by coming to England and taking a new job.
There, she meets Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (portrayed by Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) and their "son": Brahms. What's so unusual about Brahms, you might ask? Why did you put the word son in quotations, you ask? Because Brahms is a full-scale China doll, with glass eyes that will haunt you for days (still one of the elements of the production that is creepy to think about). Greta laughs at first, thinking that it's a joke, but quickly realizes just how serious they are. She is given a list of rules to follow, advised to not break any of them, lest she wish that bad things occur.
As time goes on, and weirder things start to occur around the house (clothes and trinkets from her room begin to disappear, Brahms appears in places that he wasn't placed, etc.), more is revealed about Brahms' past by the Heelshires' grocery boy who stops by once a week, Malcolm (Rupert Evans). The Heelshire family really did have a son named Brahms, but he died in a house fire on his eight birthday. However, the events surrounding this situation are rather spine-chilling: Brahms died shortly after the disappearance of a young girl, around his age, who was on a play date with him in the forest. The girl's body was found days later, her skull crushed in. According to Malcolm, most adults that spoke around town considered Brahms to be an odd child. Not much else is explained.
The creepiest moments of the film come when Greta receives phone calls from Brahms, asking her to 'come play with him'. The sound of footsteps (and the shadow of them underneath the door frame) induce chills throughout the audience. Here is where the film turns....interesting. Greta opens the door and discovers that Brahms has made her a sandwich ("I know it's your favorite," he says through the phone). She starts to think that maybe he isn't so bad after all, and takes him on as a son figure. She creates a great bond with him. To some, this may become laughable and not the direction they wanted the film to go in. The tone of the film zigzags a bit throughout, but it undoubtedly concludes in scary way.
Cole, Greta's abusive ex-boyfriend shows up, waiting for her, in the English mansion. Malcolm shows up, tensions escalate, and Cole destroys the doll. Without warning, the walls begin to shake in the house. They break open. Out steps what we can only assume is the truth: Brahms has been human the entire time, living away in the walls of the mansion and using the doll as a medium to communicate. He's an adult, covering his disfigured face with a mask similar to that of the china doll. The Heelshires had been searching for a nanny as a "sacrifice" to Brahms, and once they found Greta, they left her so that they could commit suicide. Human Brahms viciously murders Cole, and then goes on a chase to capture Malcolm and Greta.
In a series of events, Brahms is stabbed, allowing Greta and an injured Malcolm to escape, driving away into the world. I won't give away every single detail of the ending, even though this was a spoiler filled review, but I will say that it leaves the door wide open for a potential sequel.
Overall, The Boy is satisfactory. The acting is fine, the cinematography is gorgeous, and it has some chills. It's not a Sinister level of horrifying by any stretch of the imagination, but it has its creepy moments. The tone is mismatched in certain places, but it's far better than other efforts in this genre that I've seen in recent years.
The Boy is now playing in theaters everywhere. For show times, information, and box office info, visit www.fandango.com.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.