Directed by William Brent Bell. Produced by Matt Berenson, Roy Lee, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Jim Wedaa. Written by Stacey Menear. Release date: January 22, 2016.
Dolls can be creepy things. If you're left alone in the house with one of them, you might start seeing its eyes move, like it's tracking you. So, imagine the surprise when the protagonist of The Boy, Greta (Lauren Cohan), is asked to babysit a doll for months in an out-of-the-way mansion in the English countryside. The doll's owners, Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle), lost their son 20 years earlier, and have been using this doll as a stand-in ever since. But now they're going on vacation and need a live-in nanny for the doll.
Greta needs the money, and the gig seems like it's an easy one - you don't have to do anything; after all, it's a doll - so she accepts. But then things start getting weird, and soon enough she's wondering if the doll is possessed. First its head is tilted in a different direction. Then some of her clothes go missing. Then the entire doll has moved. But Greta never actually sees any of this. The reason? It's shy. One might think that means that the film telling us this story would be atmospheric, since we don't see the doll do anything, but you'll likely be unsurprised to learn that it isn't. It, like most of its contemporaries, relies on jump startles to shock its audience awake.
The Boy has been directed by William Brent Bell, a name you may or may not recognize as the man behind The Devil Inside, one of the worst horror films ever. It was the one that asked you to go to a website - now defunct - to find out the actual ending to the film. Well, he's done better this time, thankfully, by actually including the ending in the film you'll pay to see. Less fortunate is what that ending is.
The Boy features a big ol' twist that you could read and laugh at, thinking that there's no way a movie in 2016 would actually try to get us to believe it. But, I assure you, it really does exist, and it changes the tone of the film completely. I won't ruin what happens here - I'll include a spoiler tag at the end of the review - but suffice to say the movie turns into a slasher. Because of course it does. Otherwise, the doll seemed harmless enough, right? We need escalation in our movies, and this is the way the filmmakers decided to do it. Well, at least the final 30 minutes contain something to watch, even if it comes off a pretty silly twist.