The Boy

I’ve gotta say, I’m a real sucker for a movie involving a spooky manor. Any time a spacious mansion is in play I get goosebumps just imagining the myriad of terrifying scenarios that could unfold. This is probably shaped by movies like Rose Red, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and The Shining. These movies inspired me to never live in a mansion. I well and truly hate the concept of a residence so large that another person could also be living there, unbeknownst to me. One thing is for sure: Big spooky houses have big spooky things happen in them.

As is tradition, The Boy starts off with an establishing shot of a really horrible mansion. Regardless of the actual contents of the interior, the mansion gives a sense of foreboding and dread. And boy does it undersell the creepy concept of the film. The main character is paid by an old wealthy couple to babysit a young boy named Brahms. The kicker? Brahms is a terrible little doll that looks like it’ll come to life like a twisted homage to Chucky every time it appears on screen.

I think this movie does a phenomenal job at establishing tone early on. It’s creepy, it’s dreadful, it’s absolutely electric with tension. You know something is off with the scenario of a babysitter being paid to watch a creepy doll, but it’s somewhat explainable. There are a lot of grief coping mechanisms out there after all, and the host family has a portrait of a once-living son who doesn’t seem to be around any longer. So the movie sets up this terribly creepy doll as our lifeless antagonist with a really chilling setting and atmosphere.

The movie really goes out of its way to establish that Brahms used to be alive, but spreads a lot of information for you to parse through. Brahms was a nice boy, or was he? Or wasn’t he? He’s dead right? Yes definitely! Is the doll alive? Is the main character losing it in this big spooky mansion? We’re left with a lot of questions intentionally unanswered and open-ended as the movie unfolds. I can very much guarantee I would have quit as soon as I saw the doll. Let alone after the questions and experiences I’d have with the family and doll!

More strange happenings continue to occur that are really stressful, leaving only more and more questions unanswered. Phone calls, missing items, odd noises, etc. The standard fare for a maybe haunted house. Or haunted doll. Or a main character slowly losing their grip on reality?

I think in comparison to other films, The Boy does a really excellent job of setting up the sense of potential danger and dread of the scenario. Many horror films feel pretty lackluster in this regard, so it’s refreshing to have a minimal take that stands out due to strength of concept.

Speaking to the plot much further would really ruin the suspense of the story, so I’ll leave it at this:

You should definitely watch The Boy if you want to feel that creeping dread you’ve missed from older movies like The Shining or The Exorcist. It sneaks up on you and envelops you faster than you’d expect, and it leaves you wanting more at every turn. More information, more context, more explanation, but it never comes. And that is really fucking great.

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