If you’re looking to be repeatedly scared and shocked, The Boy isn’t for you. Instead, the supernatural horror tries to get under your skin, courtesy of its absurd and silly premise, which at times it manages to do.
But, while The Boy plods along nicely enough you’re always waiting for its true twist, the one that explains the supernatural shenanigans, to reveal itself. Unfortunately, when it arrives, it’s so hackneyed and stupid it all but ruins the fun and creepiness that had just preceded it. Which is a shame, because The Boy actually has some nice touches of charm and tension, most of which comes from its innately funny set-up.
The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan leads The Boy as Greta, who heads to a remote village in the United Kingdom to nanny a child, while also escaping her mysterious past. Upon her arrival, Greta learns that she has actually been employed to care for a life-size porcelain doll named Brahms, who her employers treat as a real boy. Greta is given a list of 10 strict rules to follow when she looks after Brahms. But when his parents leave, she fails to comply, which leads to some rather spooky goings on.
In the moment, The Boy is enjoyable. That’s mostly because, even though it’s not aiming for humor, its set-up is so innately funny that you can’t help but chortle at it, which in the process let’s your guard down. After setting up its absurd premise, it maintains momentum by patiently having Greta go from dismissive to terrified before ultimately becoming compliant, while the narrative’s twists and turns arrive on cue to rejuvenate any flagging interest.
Key to keeping The Boy afloat is Lauren Cohan, who excellently delivers everything that’s expected of her. At different points she’s either cutesy, naïve, stern, and she handles her descent into borderline insanity with aplomb, helping to raise the stakes and inject peril and tension into The Boy that otherwise wouldn’t be present.
Her patter with Rupert Evans (Hellboy), who plays the grocery delivery man that Greta becomes romantically entangled with, provides a warm and charming humanity to The Boy, which allows you to become increasingly invested.
However, all of that ultimately deflates with its disappointing final revelatory twist that sees it revert to type by going for a big, action-orientated conclusion, which is instantly tiresome. The warning signs had been obvious, though. Even before its dismal final act director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) tries to catch scares using dream sequences, creaks, doors opening and closing mysteriously, and mirrors -- horror tropes that have long become tepid.
Sure, before then, The Boy keeps you compelled and beguiled, while some sequences are even shot inventively. But its ending is so bad that all of its preceding creepiness and tension is immediately undermined, and could even be dismissed as lucky.