The Boy is a haunted house horror/thriller film directed by William Brent Bell. It sees a young American woman travel to the UK to nanny for an elderly couple and their child - but she's shocked to discover that the child is in fact a life-sized china doll.
When the deluded parents leave on vacation and Greta (Lauren Cohan) is left alone with the doll - named Brahms after the couples' long deceased son - odd occurrences start to make Greta wonder whether there is more to Brahms than first meets the eye. Is he just a doll, or is something more sinister lurking behind his pale white mask-like visage?
It's practically a rite of passage for all young, attractive actresses' to act in a hokey low-budget horror; some, like Jennifer Lawrence or Chloe Moretz, graduate into better and brighter things whilst others (such as Mary Elizabeth Winstead) find themselves trapped in the genre. In this film it's Lauren Cohan from AMC's The Walking Dead, and I have to say, she gives it her absolute best. Her performance isn't flattered by the genre trappings, but on the whole this is a solid notch on her resume. Plus, she spends about 15 minutes wearing nothing but a towel, so you know - that's a definite plus. Cohan is one fine lookin' lady.
That's where things start to get a little rocky though; the cliches. Oh boy, The Boy is filled with them; creaky floorboards, candlelit hallways, lightning storms, rocking chairs, unsettling telephone calls, the titular creepy doll and the aforementioned shower/towel scene involving the attractive female protagonist. We even get not one, but two separate jump scares that turn out to be nightmares. If I was anywhere even remotely close to being a horror aficionado, I'd probably be rolling my eyes so hard that people might thing I'm possessed.
That might be a blessing in disguise though - not the possession, I mean my general ambivalence towards the genre. Horror is and never will be 'my thing', but this meant that I enjoyed the cheesiness and instant familiarity of The Boy. It's almost like the PS4 game Until Dawn; the film doesn't steer away from cliches, but bathes in them and actually delivers some pretty genuine frights. It might not satisfy anyone who sits through 8-10 of these things every year, but I actually had fun with the overall creepiness and silliness of the whole thing.
A sudden twist in the third act will no doubt divide audiences, but it does flip the film on its head and effectively join the dots. The chilling score from Bear McReary is aces whilst director William Brent Bell loves to use all sorts of sliding focus techniques to build satisfying M-rated tension. The infrequent jump scares deflate certain moments, but the absence of gratuitous gore keeps the scare level purely at chills - the ideal window for wusses like me.
The Verdict: 6/10
It's by no means original or revolutionary, but enjoyment can be found in The Boy's strict adherence to the rulebook. Cohan makes for an impressive scream queen, whilst a third-act twist will polarise audiences.
The Boy is in cinemas across Australia now