An American nanny is shocked that her new English family's boy is actually a life-sized doll. After she violates a list of strict rules, disturbing events make her believe that the doll is really alive.
The creepy, haunted doll/artefact has been a staple of the horror genre since the beginning. Whether it be Hugo from 1964’s “The Devil Doll” or the infamous Chucky from the Childs Play franchise killer toys seem to be one of the sub-genres that has spanned the generations.
The latest haunted doll feature to hit our screens is William Brent Bell’s(The Devil Inside) The Boy. Set in an upper class, stately home in England, The Boy follows Greta Evens(Lauren Cohan, Maggie from The Walking Dead), a young American nanny who has travelled to England to take a job caring for the 8 year old child of a rich elderly couple. Unfortunately for Greta, things aren’t as straight forward as she had hoped.
After meeting her elderly employers(and the young, handsome village greengrocer), she is confused to find out that the “child” she is tasked to look after, is not a young boy at all, he's a four foot high porcelain doll!
Greta finds out from Malcolm(the greengrocer, played by Rupert Evans from “The Man in the High Castle) that the couple’s real son, Brahm’s died in a fire 20 years prior, and since then the couple have taken the doll in place of the son they have lost, dressing, feeding and even schooling it daily.
At first, Greta finds the doll creepy, and leaves him covered up, but after a series of strange happenings(including the “doll” making her favourite sandwich and leaving it outside her door!), she grows to care for it and is soon treating the doll as her own child.
As the film goes on, we find out more and more about her back story, which puts things into perspective. When her abusive, ex boyfriend turns up at the stately home, things take a dark turn, and the truth becomes clear!
The acting in The Boy is one to the biggest positives in the film, with Lauren Cohen’s performance in particular standing out. She does a great job at conveying the sense of dread she is feeling towards the start of the film, and the contrast in emotions she is feeling as the film goes along deserve a lot of praise. Also, the chemistry between Rupert Evans Malcolm and herself is evident.
Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle’s portrayals of Mr & Mrs Heelshire, Brahm’s snooty and mentally unstable parents also deserve a mention.
For director Bell, its a mixed bag I'm afraid. For the first act, he does a good job of keeping the jump scares to a minimum, and instead attempts to show the creepiness and solitude that the old stately home possesses. Unfortunately from here things go a bit downhill. The film goes from creepy psychological horror, to substandard cliche’d slasher fare. Im not sure if this was intended or not, but for me, it really spoils the film.
After watching the film over again, i have come to the conclusion that The Boy is an unintentionally hilarious and weird little horror that has attempted to give us a new creepy haunted doll and a new slasher star. Unfortunately the negatives greatly outweigh the positives. The Boy left me scratching my head at the decisions made during the creative process. Its a shame, as this could have been a cracking little horror flick!