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Movie Review: The Boy

Posted February 6th, 2016 at 10:18 AM by Nolafus

Man, it's been a while since I've done a movie review, far too long. So, when my roommates invited me to go see The Boy with them, of course I tagged along.

The Boy is directed by William Brent Bell and stars Lauren Cohan in the main role. In case you haven't seen the trailer, a nanny, Greta, is called to this old english house so that she can watch over the old couple's son while they take a vacation. The main plot conflict comes into play, and I don't have to worry about spoiling it since it's the main selling point of the trailer, when Greta arrives and she meets the porcelain doll the couple calls their son. The old couple has a daily routine with the doll that Greta must follow while they are away. Greta, of course, doesn't follow the rules, and I'll stop going over the plot, since it would be very rude of me to start giving points away.

Movies released towards the beginning of the year have a very sinister reputation, meaning that they're hardly ever worth seeing. People don't have as much money to spend thanks to the holidays, and aren't going out as much, so this is basically where all of the budget movies find their time slots. There are exceptions, of course, and I'd actually go as far as to say The Boy might be one of them. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a perfect horror movie (I did say 'might' after all), but it definitely played a few cards very well.

If a horror has to have one thing, it has to be suspense. The Boy had a fair share of it, and the points where the movie slowed down a little to let that tension build up were well done. The scenes weren't drawn out too long, and the background noises left me wondering what was going on outside of the camera's view. I had to know, and they held on just long enough to let the hits be pretty unsettling. There were a few moments where I had no idea what was going to happen, and I thoroughly enjoyed that weird sensation of relief and horror once I found out what was actually happening.

For what the trailer might lead you to believe, the movie itself doesn't actually have that many jump scares. Well, it still has a lot, but not as many as I thought it was going to be. Most of the scares happen when things go missing, or when Greta walks back into a room, only to find it to be different than what she left it. Very few scares happen where an object flies at the screen with a loud sound to go along with it, but when they do happen, there's a reason something is flying towards the camera. They want the scene to have a big impact, and since they use this technique sparingly, it does.

On a bit of a small note, I'm using the term 'scares' loosely. This isn't a very scary movie, but it's unsettling. It builds this creepy atmosphere where you just need a few more details to fill out the perfect solution, but as soon as you get one piece, you need another. The lack of information, and these long pans of rooms that mysteriously rearrange themselves build a good amount of tension. It's not scary, but it sure is creepy.

However, if there's one critique I must give the scares, it's the bass undertone that horror movies nowadays have for even the tiniest unsettling thing. I can understand wanting a sound queue to put the viewers even more on edge, but applying that when one object moves, or when things reappear, it does start to go a little overboard.

Thankfully, one thing that they didn't go overboard on was the story. The idea of this story is pretty out there, but the writers did a good job keeping the script and story line grounded. They knew that they had a difficult plot point to sell, and they did a good job of getting the ideas to the viewer. Well, they did a good job on that for the most part, but we'll get to the main issue later. For now, let's take a look at the characters.

The characters for the movie are pretty good. They do tend to fall on the generic side, but given how grounded the rest of the script was, it fit well. They aren't over the top, and although I would have liked to see a broader range of emotion, or slightly more realistic dialogue, it didn't degrade from the movie as a whole, and you do start to care about the main two. As far as acting performances go, that's something I'm really bad at gauging. I thought they were good, but I can't really give any critique past that, so I'll just be moving on now. Horror movies of today tend to not focus on the characters much, but The Boy knew when it was a good time to take a step back from the scares and do so. It wasn't amazing development, but it was definitely good, and appreciated.

With all of these things Greta has to go through, of course this would take a mental toll, and the movie shows this. When you first start, and meet the doll the old couple calls their boy, you think that the old couple are insane. As the movie wears on, however, you start to understand where things fall and it makes everything a bit more believable. Don't get me wrong, they're still insane, but you can get inside their heads a little bit and see things from their perspective, and it's this little psychological part that I wasn't expecting. It was a really nice surprise, and it added a lot to the movie.

Unfortunately, not everything worked for this movie. Some of the camera shots were really weird, and I'm not sure why they chose to focus on certain things. The scene shots themselves are fine, but some of the transition shots make you think a theme is going on, but nothing comes of it. In the beginning, for instance, the shots focus in on a lot of taxidermy animals as Greta is exploring the house for the first time. I thought it was a bit of foreshadowing, but nothing came of it. Nothing really tied back to those stuffed animal heads, and I'm not really sure why they chose to focus on them so heavily. A bit of a weird choice.

Hands down, the worst part about this movie is the ending. They introduce a twist, and it's a really good twist, but the more you think about it, the less it makes sense. They kind of give you a few reasons as to why the twist happened, and I had to do some puzzle building to figure out how it would be possible in the first place, but that's not a bad thing. I would have preferred to have some of the pieces strung together, just so the audience could know for certain, but that's not my main issue. My main issue is that they took the entire movie one direction, and then turned at the last moment and took it in a whole other direction that I was never expecting. Twist endings like that are a lot of fun to watch, but then again, there's a reason I never thought about what they revealed. They try to set it up, and it does make sense for a little bit, but the believable aspect to it is lost in the details. It's one of those endings that the entire movie has to cater to and focus down on, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were originally taking this movie one direction, almost got done, but then someone had this really cool idea so they had to quickly change a few things to make it work.

In fact, I believe that's what the movie really lacked. The entire thing missed a sense of direction. The story line was missing a few details, some very slight continuity errors, and small things like that. The camera didn't necessarily know what to focus on, and the story as a whole was really punished for it. What makes a good movie great is all of that detail work, which this movie lacked unfortunately. I don't know if it was a time constraint or what, but just one more round of editing and smoothing out the bumps would have made a huge difference, I think.

The Boy had some very good aspects to it that ended up surprising me. For what it lacked in scares, it more than made up for with tension. The characters were decent, and I thought the story line was pretty solid for the most part. Unfortunately, a lack of focus and a really bad (although cool) ending brings the movie down a lot. The immersion gets ruined a little, and the more you think about it, the less it makes sense. Not the best outcome when you try to deliver a twist of that magnitude.

Overall, I'll give The Boy a 7/10.

It's not an amazing horror movie, but it's still pretty good. I wouldn't go out of my way to see it, but if you're itching for a horror movie and don't know what to watch, I'd give this movie a try. One of my roommates thought it was really dumb, so it's not for everyone, but that's basically every movie. Just don't walk in the theater with really high expectations, and you may leave a bit surprised.
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