The Boy (2016)
Reviewed by Anthony Servante
Director: William Brent BellScreenplay: Stacey Menear
Stars: Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead) and Rupert Evans
Summary: A young American named Greta (Lauren Cohan) takes a job as a nanny for an 8-year-old boy in a remote English village. To her surprise, Greta learns that the child of her new employers is a life-size doll. They care for the doll as if it was human, which helps the couple to cope with the death of their own son 20 years earlier. When Greta violates a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring her worst fears to life, leading her to believe that the doll is alive.
The Review: Thanks to the Gothic screenplay by Stacey Menear, The Boy strides the thin thread between Horror and the Supernatural with the finesse of a high wire act aerialist. Greta, played by Lauren Cohan of The Walking Dead, is hired by Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire, an older couple who require a nanny for their "son", who it turns out is a porcelain doll. A very eerie figure throughout the movie. Greta is provided with a list of specific instructions for taking for Brahms, the name of the boy. After the couple leaves, Greta does not take the list seriously and takes to drinking wine and reading magazines.
Until the strange voices begin at night and the porcelain doll begins to appear in different places throughout the house.
The grocery delivery man, Malcolm, who is smitten with Greta, tells her a bit about the boy each time he drops off groceries. Initially we learn that the boy was "odd" and died in a fire at the age of eight, twenty years ago. The doll appeared after the boy's death and the Heelshires treated the doll like their son all this time. However, over the past year, they've begun trying to hire nannies unsuccessfully to care for Brahms. It is only when Brahms "wants" Greta, Mrs. Heelshire informs her, that they can finally take a long needed vacation. And as Greta learns more about the doll and the real Brahms, she begins to take the strange occurrences in the house more seriously. She begins to follow the list of instructions more closely as she believes that the doll is alive. It doesn't help matters that her requests to the doll get fulfilled.
Meanwhile, we also learn that Greta has moved to England to avoid an abusive ex-boyfriend who is following her. And as her romance buds with Malcolm, the doll's actions (which all appear off-screen) become more threatening. The final act of the story is a collision between Greta, her ex, Malcolm, and, of course, Brahms.
No spoilers here. What I can tell you is that this is a classic Gothic story. Big scary mansion. Spooky doll. Dark corridors. Could have used a couple of storms, but that may have been overkill. As it is, it is quite effective in getting to that satisfying ending. You may or may not see it coming, depending on how well you know the Gothic form. If you don't, you should have a great time. If you do, you can watch the traditional form of suspense and danger unfold before you in three tight acts. I can't wait to see what Stacey Menear comes up with next. All I suggest, move on to something a bit more horrific and say no to The Boy Part II.