Film Review: ‘The Boy’

The Boy Movie STX
Courtesy of STX

Despite game efforts by the cast, this tepid horror opus is never scary enough to overcome its silly premise.

While it’s arguable that their performances are not quite Oscar-caliber, the lead players in “The Boy” nonetheless merit kudos of some sort simply for maintaining straight faces while muddling through the absurdities of this tepid horror opus. Despite the assiduous grinding of plot mechanics by William Brent Bell (“The Devil Inside”) and scripter Stacey Menear, the movie never fully distracts its audience from the inherent silliness of its premise — a young woman is hired by an elderly couple as a nanny for a life-sized doll — and, as a result, is more likely to elicit laughs and rude remarks rather than screams and rooting interest. Still, a respectable opening-weekend gross is possible, given the current lack of similar product in the megaplex marketplace.

Lauren Cohan of TV’s “The Walking Dead” stars as Greta, an American who opts to get far away from an abusive boyfriend by traveling all the way to a distant corner of the British countryside. She winds up at a Gothic manor home near an isolated village, to interview for what she thinks will be the job of caring for an 8-year-old boy.

The good news: She lands the gig. The bad news: Her aged employees, Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle), want her to watch over Brahms, a life-sized china doll they treat as their son. The worse news: The Heelshires quickly depart for an extended vacation, leaving Greta alone with Brahms in an old dark house where things go bump in the night, items inexplicably disappear and/or relocate, and sporadic dream-sequence fakeouts provide low-voltage shocks.

Rupert Evans — who, in more than a few shots here, looks as though he could pass for Brad Pitt’s younger brother — pops up occasionally as Malcom, a hunky deliveryman who divides his time between flirting with Greta and telling her about the “real” Brahms, an 8-year-old youngster who reportedly perished in a house fire 20 years earlier. (The still-grieving Heelshires, he adds, have treasured the doll as a stand-in for their lost little boy ever since.) But it’s not until Greta shares her suspicions that Brahms’ ghost may be haunting the house, and possessing the doll, that Malcom tells the rest of the story: Brahms wasn’t exactly a little angel when he was alive and kicking. And his spirit almost certainly isn’t blithe.

To give credit where it is due: Bell, with no small amount of help from lenser Daniel Pearl and production designer John Willett, generates some palpable suspense during atmospheric sequences in which Greta explores the nooks and crannies of Heelshire manor. And editor Brian Berdan deserves praise for seamlessly interlacing scenes actually shot in two different houses and various studio sets.

But there is just so much that can be done to counterbalance the laugh-out-loud daftness of scenes that call for Cohan run the gamut from cynical to fearful to maternal while acting opposite her china-doll co-star. (Not that it’s Cohan’s fault — she overplays from time to time, but gives the movie much more than it ever gives her.) And it doesn’t help much that a ridiculous third-act plot twist is capped off with an anticlimactic finale. Boy, talk about a surefire way of guaranteeing bad word of mouth.

Film Review: 'The Boy'

Reviewed at Edwards Marq*E Stadium 23, Houston, Jan. 21, 2016. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 97 MIN.


An STX Entertainment release and presentation in association with Lakeshore Entertainment and Huayi Brothers of a Lakeshore Entertainment and STX Entertainment production, in association with Vertigo Entertainment. Produced by Jim Wedaa, Roy Lee, Matt Berenson, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright. Executive producers, Eric Reid, David Kern, John Powers Middleton, Robert Simonds, Adam Fogelson, Oren Aviv, Wang Zhongjun, Wang Zhonglei, Donald Tang.


Directed by William Brent Bell. Screenplay, Stacey Menear. Camera (color), Daniel Pearl; editor, Brian Berdan; music, Bear McCreary; production designer, John Willett; art director, James Steuart; costume designer, Jori Woodman; sound, Kevin Sands; associate producer, Jackie Shenoo; assistant director, Paul Barry; casting, Julie Hutchinson.


Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson, James Russell.

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  1. Sara says:

    I think the beggining of the movie was fluid and ggraceful,actually I was shocked by the story first but it wasnt classled as wit from the middle till the end ,It could have been better because it doesnt really engage you in the story and phenomenons , in my opinion the ending was ambiguous and could have been more scary .
    The sequel in the final shot was really expected like other films and it didnt really shocked me.

  2. YouWouldLikeToKnow says:

    In my opinion this review seems like a jealous little girl spreading mean rumors.

    I liked this movie very much. There hasn’t been many psychological thriller / horror movies out the lately, especially none that could surprise me. I was scared, empathetic, shocked and strangely excited while watching this film. For me it’s always scarier when the plot is as close to reality as possible while maintaining a little mystery and suspense. I can look past the acting, which wasn’t world class, and still enjoy the thrills of this movie. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it days later and that is rare for me.

  3. angelina says:

    The Boy (2016) Full Movie
    Play Now

  4. steven wynn says:

    I’m not going to this film because the trailer creeped me out so much. The premise doesn’t seem silly to me.

  5. Julian M says:

    Planet 9 from Outer Space was more scary that this!

  6. dbrahm says:

    As a Brahm, I object!

  7. cadavra says:

    Though in fairness, at least they did the evil-doll premise without the ventriloquist!

  8. Bill B. says:

    What an absurd premise. Hope Lauren Cohen is smart enough not to throw away a potentially promising career by doing crap like this.

  9. Alex Amadei says:

    Another evil-doll movie premieres this weekend; it’s a masterpiece, and on January 24, Fanny Pey will arrive.

  10. Stacey of fakenewspapersdotcom says:

    Ooh, I’m scared now! Well let’s see how these actors help each other in justifying the film. I saw Cohan’s hilarious fake funny article at fakenewspapers and I admit, she’s a pretty face, not to mention talented. Although dilly-dallying, I’m still gonna watch for this one and see how it goes!

  11. Since I saw the trailer I suspected a 9% rotten rating on RT. It never looked to be on the fun killer doll genre, it’s just another dumb doll in a rocking chair.

  12. irwinator1992 says:

    Lauren Cohan is a good actress, but this film looks awful, even by January standards. Rupert Evans, however, is a truly terrible actor who can’t do anything right. Expect poor box office numbers.

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