There’s a moment early on in The Boy where you’re either going to think it’s the dumbest movie you’ve ever seen or completely brilliant. I err on the side of the latter, loving the audaciousness that demands that you believe that a porcelain doll could be alive. Director William Brent Bell brings you along for a great ride, keeping you wondering until the end who is really crazy here.
Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan, Maggie from TV’s The Walking Dead) has come to the UK from Montana to work for an elderly couple named the Heelshires. Thinking she’ll be watching over a child in her role as a nanny, Greta is shocked that her charge is really a porcelain boy named Brahms.
This is the point where you might want to give up on this film. I urge you to stick with it, as it gets really good from here on out.
It turns out that Brahms has rejected many sitters, so Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire closes the doors to a room and begin speaking to him, asking if he approves of Greta. Now comes the time when they must instruct her on all the rules of caring for their child, which include always reading to Brahms in a loud and clear voice, playing his music loudly and always putting his food in the fridge if he doesn’t finish it. Also: remember to keep setting and changing the rat traps outside so they don’t get into the walls of the estate.
Of course, Greta ignores these rules and does her own thing. While on the phone with her sister, she learns that her abusive ex — who she left the country to escape — has been looking for her. She also falls for Malcolm (Rupert Evans, who was on Charmed and is now on The Man In the High Castle), a grocery deliveryman.
That’s how she learns that when the real Brahms was eight — twenty years ago — he died in a fire. The real boy was also incredibly odd, which seems to be why strange things happen in the house: locked doors, stolen clothes and strange noises like the crying of a child. Even more frightening is that the doll is able to move between rooms on its own.
Greta comes to believe that the spirit of the dead child is inside the doll, so she begins to take the rules seriously. This freaks out Malcolm, who relates a story that Brahms may have killed a young girl, but before the police could get involved, he died in the house fire. He warns her not to stay in the house, but she reveals that she had a miscarriage when her ex beat her, so she feels that caring for Brahms is her chance to atone.
Do you think this film is crazy yet? It gets even more bonkers, because the Heelshires — happy that they’ve finally found someone worthy of their son — write a goodbye letter before drowning themselves.
Of course, her ex-lover finds her and smashes the doll. But that only means that this film unlocks the next level of insanity because Brahms has been alive all along, living inside the walls, his ruined face covered with a mask that resembles the doll. The letter from his parents reveals that Greta is to be his mate. Can she escape? Will anyone survive? And how the hell are they going to top this in the sequel?
Originally called In a Dark Place and starring Jane Levy (Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe) before the switch to the title of The Boy and recasting the lead.
I recommend this one, as long as you keep an open mind and accept that its ridiculous premise will lead to some major scares later.
BONUS: You can listen to us discuss this movie on our podcast.