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Movie Review: "The Boy"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 1/22/2016

Theatrical Release: 1/22/2016

Synopsis

Greta (Lauren Cohan) has taken a new job as a nanny. The family that hired her lives in a remote English village, and they are extremely wealthy. Greta is aware that the couple are a bit old to be parents, but she is absolutely shocked when she learns that the boy she will be required to take care of is actually a life-sized doll. It is very bizarre, but the couple are extremely wealthy, so the job will pay very well. Besides, how hard could the job be?

The couple believes the doll is their son, they treat it as such, and they expect Greta to do the same. This means she will need to feed the doll, groom the doll, and even socialize with it. Greta finds it really weird, but she will have the rich family’s mansion to herself during the day, and she only needs to pretend the doll is a real boy while the couple are around, which is not often. However, things start happening that she cannot explain. When she is not looking the doll seems to change its position or location, and the food that she gives the doll seems to disappear. These things are strange, and it may sound harmless, but these strange occurrences are only the beginning, and a Greta starts to believe she may be in danger.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Mystery (+5pts)

The Setup (-3pts)

Lauren Cohan (+3pts)

The Scares (-4pts)

The Ending (+4pts)

The Logistics (-3pts)

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Pro: The Mystery (+5pts)

I liked that the filmmakers focused on the mysterious aspect of this story, as opposed to focusing solely on the horror. Greta was alone in this mansion quite a bit, and strange things were happening when she was not looking. What were the extent of the doll's abilities? Was it friendly, albeit creepy? Was it dangerous? What happened to the family's son, and how much danger was Greta in?

These all seem like simple questions, but the filmmakers did a great job at making it all feel very mysterious. Despite everything that Greta was figuring out, I always felt like there was another discovery to be made, and this curiosity kept me invested in this story. The doll was creepy, the parents were creepy, and I always felt like they were hiding some dark secret. Simply put, I enjoyed following Greta through this mysterious and bizarre experience.

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Con: The Setup (-3pts)

I thought the premise could have worked really well, but I did not think the filmmakers did a great job of setting it up. The idea was really creepy, and it was effective for a horror-thriller like this one. An older couple wanted Greta to be the nanny for the doll that they believed was their son. She agreed because of the money, and then creepy things ensued. The plot was nothing crazy, but it had the potential to work really well.

One of my issues with the plot was that I did not feel like Greta was tied to the job, and I just kept wondering why she did not just up and leave. It was not a huge deal, but the filmmakers could have done a better job of explaining why she had to stay stay. If they needed their protagonist to stick around, they should have given her a reason to do so. Unfortunately, that did not happen here, and Greta’s obvious solution of simply walking away felt like a blatant plot hole.

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Pro: Lauren Cohan (+3pts)

I like Lauren Cohan, and I have seen her handle both intense and dramatic scenes throughout The Walking Dead—back when I watched it. With that in mind, I knew Lauren Cohan could handle dramatic moments, and I knew she could handle the intense moments that the horror genre can bring. I do not think this performance will stick with anyone, but I do not think Lauren Cohan was the problem. The character just did not get enough development for Lauren Cohan to properly showcase her talent, but I thought she effectively led this movie, and she did a decent enough job with the little that she was given. I did not think she had the material to give a truly ground-breaking performance, but she delivered the performance that the movie needed her from her. She brought the intensity, she brought the fear, she brought the creepiness, and she even brought some comedy. Also keep in mind that she did this while spending most of the time acting by herself or acting opposite a doll—so essentially by herself.

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Con: The Scares (-4pts)

The Boy was a horror-thriller that definitely leaned more toward being a thriller. Unfortunately, this was largely due to the fact that the horror was lacking. The movie just was not scary at all, even though it tried to be. The filmmakers tried to deliver a few jump scares, but I saw them coming from a mile away, so even those were not very effective.

This movie worked as a creepy thriller. The filmmakers tried to inject some horror into it, but I did not think they achieved what they were hoping for. I always felt like the movie was just on the precipice of shifting into scarier territory, but then it never went over that edge. It had a creepy, mysterious story, but the horror felt very bland, almost like the filmmakers were holding back.

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Pro: The Ending (+4pts)

I am not going to give anything away, but I liked where the filmmakers took this story. I have a feeling some people will not like it, but I did. This was an interesting mystery-thriller. Greta was trying to figure what on earth was going on, as it appeared the doll she was watching was possessed. All Greta knew was that there were a lot of incidents involving the doll that she could not explain. Again, I am not going to give anything away, but this was a thriller so you knew the filmmakers would to attempt some shocking reveal at the end of the movie, and the reveal in The Boy definitely felt unique. There were some logistical issues with the ending if you start digging deeper into it, but I liked the direction that the filmmakers went in nonetheless, because it felt somewhat unorthodox.

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Con: The Logistics (-3pts)

While I liked the direction that the filmmakers took the ending of this story in, the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. The movie got a lot weirder after the reveal, but the reveal poked a bunch of holes in the premise and everything that led up to the climax of the movie. It poked so many holes in this story that it did not even make sense why Greta was hired in the first place. It was a decent reveal in terms of it being a surprise, but it raised a bunch of questions that I do not want to get into with too much detail to avoid spoilers. Just know that, while I liked the reveal to some degree, it challenged the entire premise of the movie as you start thinking about it.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (77pts)

The Boy had a pretty bizarre premise, but I liked the filmmakers’ decision to lean into the mystery of it. The movie was certainly more creepy and mysterious than it was scary, as it really only had the typical jump scares that you have come to expect from your average horror movie. Fortunately, the more mysterious aspect of the story worked for me. The older couple always seemed to be hiding something, and the doll seemed to be possessed, but it was unclear how much danger Greta was in—if she was even in any at all.

The whole premise was really creepy, but I did not understand why Greta could not just leave. It is a fairly common issue for horror movies, and it was certainly an issue with The Boy. Fortunately, I liked the mystery element of the story, and I enjoyed the direction the filmmakers took the mystery in at the end of the movie. I also thought Lauren Cohan did a decent enough job of carrying this movie, especially considering she spent a lot of time acting by herself. The movie could have been better, but I enjoyed it for what it was, an average horror-thriller.

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