“The Boy”? More like “Boy, This Movie is Stupid, Oh My God, Bad Puns Are the Only Thing Keeping the Existential Misery At Bay, Dear God Morgoth Let Me Die.”
SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING.
The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan stars in The Boy as Greta, a woman who’s tasked with being the nanny for a boy named Brahms. Except the boy is actually a doll, and this movie is actually a pain in my ass.
In her breakdown of the trailer, Emily took exception to a lot of the Horror Movie Hero Does Stupid Shit on display, and, to screenwriter Stacey Menear’s credit, The Boy at least attempts to provide halfway logical explanations.
*Why is Greta OK with staying by herself in a middle-of-nowhere creepy mansion? Because she’s hiding from an abusive ex. (Alternatively, you could change your name and move to a place that’s, hmm, NOT INHABITED BY A CREEPY HORROR DOLL, but I said “halfway logical.”)
*Why doesn’t she leave when it becomes clear that Brahms-the-doll is possessed by the spirit of an actual child, who died 20 years ago in a tragic fire? Because she has Motherhood Issues relating to a past miscarriage and thinks it would be a dick move to abandon an eight-year-old child who needs taking care of. Plus, all the stuff he does falls more under the category of “mischievous” than “violent.” Damn, why are you people prejudiced against kids without bodies? (I’d have hopped a ride back to town with the cute delivery boy at the first sign of “possessed doll,” but then again I am one of the very, very small number of women—according to movies, that is—who do not have a deep, all-abiding yearn to have a child.)
*Why would she even agree to babysit a doll in the first place? Uhhhhh, because you get money for doing literally nothing? I got nothin’ against the one. It makes sense.
Unfortunately, Greta still spends a bulk of the movie behaving like a dipshit. I wouldn’t necessarily mind that—people being dumb as fuck is a horror movie tradition, after all—if The Boy were scary. But it’s not. It has all the trappings—mansion in the middle of nowhere, creepy kid, creepy old people, creepy toys, dead animals, TAXIDERMY—but all of it adds up to a ton of dull. A lot of that comes from the fact that Greta rarely feels as creeped out as she should be by the paranormal shenanigans she finds herself embroiled in; there’s no real sense of urgency until the last 20 minutes or so, when a plot twist at least injects the movie with some adrenaline.
Do you want to know the plot twist?
I’m gonna tell you the plot twist.
The doll isn’t actually possessed. Brahms never died in a fire—he’s been living in the walls and his creepy attic clubhouse, with the full knowledge and consent of his parents, for the last 20 years. No real reason is given for why he does this, except that Brahms is weird. (It’s implied that his parents faked Brahms’ death in order to protect him after he killed a friend of his.) He wears a doll mask and speaks with a creepy kid’s voice. Everything Brahms-the-doll seems to do—moving things, making telephone calls—is actually Brahms-the-human. Everything supernatural from the trailer took place in dream sequences.
Yeah. It’s a little contrived.
I only bring this up so I can mention The Boy’s undercurrent of sexual menace. The first time we see Greta, her chest is being stared at by a taxi driver. Brahms steals all her clothes at one point, which has different connotations for an eight-year-old spirit than it does a 28-year-old man. He creeps on her in the shower. As Brahms’ parents explain to him in a letter, by hiring Greta they were actually giving her to him. I’ve already given this movie more thought than I’d like—more than it deserves, because it’s very, very mediocre—but if you’re still on the fence about seeing it, how OK you are with implied (because PG-13) threats of sexual violence is a factor to consider.