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The Boy (2016)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/10/2016
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/28/2016
In my recent review forEmelie, I wrote about the validity of the threats presented in horror movies. Arenít some of the things presented in scary movies a little too far-fetched to be considered scary? Still, one can understand why movies contain things like axe-wielding killers, marauding sharks, or violent aliens. If we were actually confronted with those things, Iím sure that we would be scared. But, why are dolls presented as the villains in horror movies? Children around the world have played with dolls for thousands of years, but, at some point, dolls suddenly became these terrifying things which could walk and talk and attempt to do us bodily harm. When did this trend start and why does it persist? If you see a doll in real life, does it bother you? We can ponder these questions as we discuss The Boy.
Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) has traveled from the United States to England for a chance at a new life and a job as a nanny. She is chauffered to a remote estate, where she finds a massive house. Inside, she meets Mr. & Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton & Diana Hardcastle), a couple who seem a bit old to have an 8-year old son. Then, Greta meets their son, Brahms, who is, in fact, a doll. The Heelshires treat the doll as if it is a real person -- preparing meals for it, reading to it, changing its clothes, and tucking it in a night. At first, Greta thinks that this is some sort of joke, but she soon realizes that the couple is very serious. Malcolm (Rupert Evans), who brings groceries to the house from his store in town, tells Greta that the Heelshires lost their real son in a tragedy and treat the doll like the real thing. Part of the reason for hiring Greta was so that the couple could go on vacation, and soon Greta finds herself alone with Brahms. She ignores the instructions which she was given and decides to enjoy the solitude. But, strange things begin to happen around the house. Itís almost as if Brahms is alive.
Again, the evil doll sub-genre has been a staple of horror movies for years, from the ventriloquist dummy in Dead of Night to the clown thing in Poltergeist to Chucky in Childís Play. Weíve seen dolls terrorize people in many different ways. More recently, Annabelle offered a doll which didnít really do much, but served as a conduit for evil. There has also been a recent spate of movies in which sinister things happen to couples who are mourning the loss of a child. (Seriously, swing through the horror section of Netflix and see how many movies have this plot.) The Boy combines these two ideas, as we have a grieving couple who appear to have an evil doll in their possession. Obviously, the two elements arenít original, but putting them together offers a story which is somewhat unique. The Brahms doll itself is creepy looking in the classic sense that there is nothing overtly ominous about it, but itís quasi-realistic look makes it very easy to believe that it walks at night.
First-time Screenwriter Stacey Menear has created an interesting jumping-off point for the film, and while it may seem a bit silly for a couple to treat a doll as their son, even the most skeptical viewer will want to see where this is going. And the twist in the third act is effective as well. After setting up some red herrings, the truth is fairly surprising (even my wife, who sees every twist coming, didnít guess this one) and it really adds a kick to the finale. The problem with The Boy is the middle, as the film really drags here. It becomes pretty clear that the main point of the film is this -- Whatís up with Brahms? The movie takes its time with this question, offering scene after scene in which Greta suspects that Brahms is alive. While Malcolm shows up from time-to-time, for the most part, itís just Greta, proving why itís nearly impossible to adapt survival horror games to the big screen. We watch her move around the house carrying the doll, wishing that something would happen.
I can see many viewers turning The Boy in frustration, as the stagnant second act really hurts the film. But, stick around for the ending, and youíll discover movie which isnít necessarily good, but is fairly competent B-movie fare. The Walking Dead veteran Cohan is good in the lead role, and she essentially carries the film, as sheís in every scene. (My wife is convinced that she took to role just to have the opportunity to play a character who gets to bathe and wear clean clothes.) The movie has a few creepy moments, but Director William Brent Bell doesnít get nearly enough mileage out of Brahms. While youíll appreciate some of the clever subtleties of the big reveal, youíll also bemoan the fact that, like Annabelle, The Boy isnít the doll scare-fest that you hoped it would be.
The Boy has more clothes than I do on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only slight grain at times and no defects from the source materials. When there is a light background, the grain is evident, but otherwise, itís not bothersome. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright, even though the movie is very monochromatic at times. The level of detail is notable, as is the depth, which works well in the mansionís hallways. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which run at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track does a great job of bringing us the various sounds which flow throughout the house, keeping the surround and stereo channels active throughout. The subwoofer effects contribute during the ďshockĒ sequences and they really come to life during the finale. The audio really adds to the atmosphere of the film.
There are no extra features on The Boy Blu-ray Disc. (I can't remember the last time I saw a release from a major studio which didn't contain at least one special feature.)
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long