The Boy (2016)
Director: William Brent Bell
Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, James Russell & Ben Robson
Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Set in a secluded English village, The Boy finds young American Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead) relocating to assume the position of nanny to a young boy. Shortly after learning she will be caring for a life-sized doll modeled after the child in the wake of his death, Greta begins experiencing a series of unexplainable events leading her to believe the doll is alive.
Escaping an abusive relationship, Greta Evans (Cohan) treks abroad to care for Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire’s (Jim Norton, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Diana Hardcastle, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) 8-year-old son on their sprawling English property. Laughing off what she assumes is a practical joke, Greta quickly realizes her responsibilities are to care for a porcelain doll bearing the likeness of their late son Brahms. Serving as a coping device for the grieving parents, Greta is ordered to adhere to a series of strict caring rules, treating the inanimate object as if it were alive while the Heelshire’s take a long overdue holiday. Striking up a relationship with local grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans, Hellboy), the American woman slowly learns more about the real Brahms and his peculiar personality before his untimely death in a house fire. Alone and with little outside interaction, Greta’s deviation from the doll’s care triggers an eerie chain events that finds Greta’s personal belongings disappearing, records being played on their own and the doll noticeably moving from one place to another. Frightened and questioning her own sanity, Greta’s fears are validated when Malcolm is witness to the boy’s unbelievable movement. Uncertain whether evil forces are at play or not, Greta’s nightmare ex-boyfriend unexpectedly arrives hoping to forcefully resolve their differences only to experience Brahms’ true intentions firsthand.
Shot on location in Victoria, British Columbia and originally titled The Inhabitant, The Boy is cinema’s latest attempt at haunted doll scares with a thinly veiled plot audiences will spot a million miles away. Admittedly, while its setup is painfully generic with the greater majority of its thrills spoiled in its marketing campaign, The Boy takes a third act detour mildly unique to what’s expected. Unfortunately, although its watcher in the walls angle matched with a fast-paced chase of its heroine jolts the film with much needed energy, attempts to raise the film above its mediocrity are too little, too late. Inexpensively produced and released during the dead of winter, The Boy would perform strongly at the box-office for its intended teen audience yet, plays itself too safe, ultimately lacking any solid suspense and indulging in below average cheap scares.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Boy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Excellently handled, skin tones are exacting and true, details found in knickknacks around the Heelshire’s lavish household are crisp while, the grassy exteriors are lavish and bold. Black levels are predominately inky and pleasing with only fleeting mentions of crush bearing little to no consequence to the film’s remarkable transfer. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, including moments of hushed tones, are perfectly captured while, moody ambiance around the house is exquisitely balanced against the wall smashing and high-pitched shrieks of its final act. With the exception of a Digital HD Code, no bonus features have been included.
Publicized as more of the same while its final product strives to be different, The Boy is an uneventful opus that builds itself on lackluster frights suited for teens who don’t know any better. Hardly the worst of its kind, The Boy does little to stand out in a crowd marking it for a forgettable future. Luckily, Universal Studios Home Entertainment pampers the feature with exceptional technical merits but, severely slacks in the special features department. In a toy box filled of better supernatural efforts centered on dolls, The Boy shouldn’t be counted on to haunt viewers’ dreams.
Available May 10th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Boy can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.