Movie Review: "The Boy"
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 is 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 that looks like boy. It is very bizarre, but the couple is extremely wealthy, so they will pay very well. Besides, how hard could the job be?
The couple believes the doll is their son, treats it as such, and expects 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 is around, which is not often. However, she quickly learns that something mysterious is going on. When she is not looking, things happen that she cannot explain. 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 may sound harmless, but these strange occurrences are only the beginning. As a result, a terrified Greta starts to believe she may be in danger.
The Pros & Cons
The Mystery (+5pts)
The Setup (-3pts)
Lauren Cohan (+3pts)
The Scares (-4pts)
The Ending (+4pts)
The Logistics (-3pts)
Pro: The Mystery (+5pts)
This filmmakers focused on the mysterious aspect of this story, as opposed to focusing solely on the horror. Greta is alone in this mansion quite a bit, and strange things are happening. What are the extent of the doll's abilities? Is it friendly, albeit creepy? Is it dangerous? What happened to the family's son, and how much danger is 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 had the impression that there was something more to learn. 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.
Con: The Setup (-3pts)
I thought the premise could have worked really well. However, I did not feel like the filmmakers did a very good job of setting it up. The idea is really creepy, and was effective for a horror-thriller like this. An older couple wants Greta to be the nanny for the doll that they believe is their son. She agrees because of the money, and then creepy things start to happen.
One of my issues was that I did not feel that Greta was tied to this job. This was one of those movies where I kept wondering why the main character did not just up and leave. In other words, the filmmakers could have done a better job of explaining why she should stay. If you need your protagonist to stick around, give them a reason to do so. Otherwise, the character's obvious solution of simply walking away will feel like a blatant plot hole.
Pro: Lauren Cohan (+3pts)
I like Lauren Cohan, and have seen her handle some 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, as well as the intense moments that the horror genre can bring. I do not think this was a performance that will stick with anyone, but I do not think Lauren Cohan was the problem.
I felt like the character did not get enough development for Lauren Cohan to showcase her talents on the big screen. However, I think she did a decent enough job of carrying the movie along. I do not think she had the material to give a truly ground-breaking performance, but she delivered the performance that the movie needed her to. She brought the intensity, the fear, the creepiness, and even some comedy. This is all saying something when you remember that she spends a lot of the time acting by herself or acting opposite a doll (essentially acting by herself). Again, to be clear, this was not a ground-breaking performance (for reasons that I believe were out of her control), but Lauren Cohan delivered the performance that the movie needed from her.
Con: The Scares (-4pts)
The Boy was a horror-thriller that definitely leaned more toward being a thriller. Unfortunately, this 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 a mile away, so they were not very effective.
This movie worked, naturally, as a creepy thriller. The filmmakers tried to inject some horror, but I do not think these moments achieved the desired effect. There was certainly potential here, but I thought the filmmakers failed with its execution. I always felt like the movie was just on the precipice of shifting into scarier territory, but then it never jumped. It was a creepy, mysterious concept, but the horror felt very typical, almost like the filmmakers were holding back.
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 is trying to figure what on earth is going on, as it appears that the doll is possessed.
However, that cannot really be what is going on, can it? All Greta knows is that there are a lot of incidents involving the doll that she cannot explain. Again, I am not going to give anything away, but this is a thriller so you know the filmmakers are going to attempt some shocking reveal at the end of the movie, and the reveal in The Boy definitely felt unique. There were some logistics issues with the ending, if you start digging deeper into it, but I liked the direction that the filmmakers went in nonetheless.
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 whole thing becomes even weirder after the reveal, but it pokes a bunch of holes in the premise. Specifically, the question of why Greta was asked to be a nanny in the first place comes to mind. It was a decent reveal, 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, it challenges the entire setup of the movie if you start thinking about it.
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 is certainly more creepy and mysterious than it is scary. The few “scares” that were in here were 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 is unclear how much danger Greta is in (if any at all). The whole thing was really creepy, but I wished I felt like Greta had to stay. As things were scaring her and freaking her out, I did not understand why she did not leave. Why stick around? It is a fairly common issue for horror movies, and it was certainly an issue (albeit a minor one) with The Boy. However, I did like the mystery element of the story, and I also 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.