Wow. So with Hereditary currently holding the title of high water mark for this year’s Summer of Horror (and, I’m gonna predict, the year overall), it was bound to be met with an equivalent low water mark. The Boy is that movie.
I put this up on the watch list last year, in spite of the poor reviews, simply because I’m a fan of the “living doll” subgenre and want to see more films made about it. I appreciate that they’re usually psychological mysteries, and have the potential to involve the supernatural. You can make slashers out of them, as the Child’s Play series has obviously exploited to the maximum degree, or you can take the Twilight Zone: Living Doll approach and make it a tense psychological thriller until the final moments reveal the truth. The Boy takes the second approach, which is admirable, but it’s about the only admirable quality the movie possesses.
The problem is – and it’s a simple but damning problem – is that the script is not nearly as clever or interesting as it thinks it is. Indulge me in a quick peek behind the curtain here; I watched this with a few friends on a vacation, slightly drunk and exhausted, in a literal cabin in the woods with a storm brewing outside, and was rolling my eyes practically from frame one. This is a pretty big spoiler, but it’s extremely obvious from the outset that the doll is not alive. The film sets up a secondary character as such a blatantly obvious “suspect” that I prayed there was more going on. There is more going on, but not much more. And the final truth amounts to a big fat “so what?”
Because it’s SO obvious that there’s no living doll stuff happening, no amount of ominous closeups of the doll’s face can salvage the suspense that is sorely lacking. Seriously, nothing scary or interesting happens until the final 10 minutes of the film, and even then, I’ve seen the exact same twist executed much better in other films. I’m sure there are folks out there who would find it scary if a character places a creepy doll in a room, leaves for a few minutes, and then finds the doll missing when they return, but if that’s the best you’ve got…
Horror movie chickens, this one’s for you. I mean, there are 100 other “soft” horror movies I could recommend if you’re looking to dip your toe in the water, but here’s your 101st option.