Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: William Brent Bell's, The Boy

of 6 viewers "Liked" "The Boy" (USA, 2015)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

The Impostor - "Well done, original and exciting, The Boy exceeded my expectations. The director William Brent Bell did a fantastic job on this film, coming off a couple not so great horror films: WerStay AliveThe Devil Inside. I was very wary but once the film started and Greta entered the creepy mansion I just knew this was Brent Bell's best film to date. It starts of on the slow side but the build up is actually very entertaining. The character development kept me interested and the story of who's crazy and who's not kept me glued to the screen. Many different outcomes came to mind as I was drawn into the eerie situations and dangers the main characters were in. I'd highly recommend The Boy, you won't be let down, not even with the PG-13 rating. Hopefully the disappointment from The Forest won't sway your decision to go see it. This is my first perfect score of 2016 with hopes the rest of the year has at least a couple great horror films like this one." - 5 Stars

Book Wyrm - "I went into this movie knowing little to nothing about it except that it was another major studio horror movie about a creepy doll. With this information in mind, my expectations were set extremely low. The movie started and I was surprisingly startled, but in a good way. The setting looked great, the acting was amazing, and the story was starting off extremely well. I was intrigued and slightly wary. Then the first jump scare happened and I got so scared I dropped some of my candy. I can guarantee that if you do not look up this movie and just go see it, the twist at the end will definitely surprise you. It surprised me and was totally refreshing and new, something I had really never seen before in a paranormal doll horror movie. I came into work that night telling all of my coworkers that they had to go see it and that it was such a good movie. I am glad to say that The Boy did not disappoint." - 5 Stars

The Berkeley Blazer - "First of all, I must say it's a relief to see a film about spirits and possession that doesn't involve Catholic orthodoxy. The Boy takes place in England but it is an England that is filtered through the American imagination, coming across more like a fairytale house in the middle of an enchanted wood than a Jamesian thriller. The emotional journey of our American protagonist follows a compelling trajectory and intensified by her charge, an apparently inhabited porcelain doll. Don't doubt for a second though this movie can be incredibly funny when it doesn't intend to be, but the principal characters are likeable enough and strong enough actors to keep you invested in their fates. This was one of the most satisfying Overlook field trips to a mainstream horror movie that I have participated in." - 4 Stars

Lord Battle - "I loved Lauren Cohen in this film. She gave an incredible performance with some of the most realistic reactions I've ever seen in a horror film. A well directed, genre blending, smart film isn't something I expected from the director of Stay Alive and Wer but I'll watch his next film for sure, seeing as I saw this one in theaters twice. I can't wait to own this on BluRay." - 5 Stars

Huntress - "It's still early in the year to already be jaded by new horror coming out of big studios, but after experiencing The Forest... well, expectations for The Boy were fairly low. But this movie did something that I always hope iffy movies would do - surprised the hell out of me. It's gorgeous, dark, and far more perverse than I thought going into it. Not only did I enjoy The Boy both times I saw it in theatre, I'm still having fun talking and thinking about the details you must find between the lines. There is just so much to say about this film. Everything from the limited cast juxtaposed with the cavernous mansion, to how the story is built up is done very well. In a word, The Boy is just smart." - 4.5 Stars

Dabbles - "The Boy is a sleeper film... in a really good way. It's like that sleeper car that you thought was slow and busted, but it up and surprises you like a knee to the nuts. Lauren Cohen's acting in this movie is so well done, it made me forget all about The Walking Dead. The doll was creepy as hell, the plot was crazy in all. Pure magic in the sense of the magicians secret." - 4 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

It's now 2016 and it seems that the horror genre is still being dominated by the paranormal. The paranormal sub-genre has always been a favorite but with franchises like Paranormal Activity, Sinister, Insidious, and The Conjuring, it's actually stronger than ever. So it's no wonder that the first two wide released horror films of 2016 seem to fall right in line with the ones mentioned, featuring a pretty female lead, simple title, and a seemingly haunted location. The Forest started our year off with an exploitative narrative about the Aokigahara Forest, where they explain a Japanese cultural phenomenon with ghosts. The Forest is a perfect example of boring storytelling that uses the paranormal as a "scary crutch" for lack of interesting characters and atmosphere. But it's the second horror film of 2016 we are discussing here and I predict The Boy will emerge as a polarizing breath of fresh air, as it both deconstructs one sub-genre and reanimates another.

(There is a warning posted below the star rating about spoilers, this is your second)

To best describe The Boy in one word I’d have to choose manipulative. The film makes every effort to sell you on the idea that this is your run-of-the-mill Pretty Girl Ghost Mystery. If you aren't familiar with PGGMs, they are a modern adaptation of the traditional haunting picture. Hauntings are classically used as a device to test the strengths of a family; a loving family will overcome anything, like the Freelings (Poltergeist), while a family with problems tend to end up like the Torrances (The Shining). The PGGM applies the same classic ideas to an independant woman, often a single mother. One of the PGGM’s most important tropes is how males fit into the film narrative, often appearing as a new father-influence to either the leading actress or her child, they are always of questionable morals and expendable. Not only does The Boy play up all aspects of a PGGM but it does so while also staying true to its own reality, which is that Brahms is still very much alive. 
The film opens with Greta reacting to her driver looking at her unbuttoned blouse. This of course is playing on two levels of narrative, one being the PGGM trope of distrusting men looking to take advantage of the unspoken-for woman and the other TRUE theme of voyeurism. We then move to the mansion which is obviously far from town and steeped in mystery even before we see its burnt balcony. Once we are inside we get another misleading clue as we see close-ups of creepy paintings and stare into the eyes of mounted animal heads. This of course adds to the mystery aspect of the film but is actually once again a part of the voyeur theme, as Brahms is just as vigilant and creepy as the mansion's decorations. The Boy continues with clues that have double meanings and backstories that are mostly red herrings, until Brahms eventually wins Greta over by making her favorite sandwich and it becomes obvious that we are dealing with something special. What follows feels like a Del Toro narrative, as the ghost suddenly becomes sympathetic, which is justified by revealed back story.
I was incredibly excited to revisit The Boy after my first screening and I must say that the film not only holds up on a second viewing but the whole tone changes. The PGGM atmosphere is completely replaced with a slasher POV vibe, which is actually much creepier. It’s also incredibly interesting how the Brahms doll becomes robbed of all power and in exchange becomes an ultimate distraction, allowing the still very alive Brahms to operate as a ghost. This tone switch during the second viewing is why I feel The Boy surpasses House Bound, although both films were incredibly manipulative towards know-it-all horror fans (this is a good thing). And I did quite enjoyed House Bound's humor, but I just prefer a serious tone.

Here's some B-roll from Behind the scenes of The Boy

Lauren Cohan appears on Ellen to promote The Boy and ends up being a part of what might be the only marketing slip-up, as far as the end is concerned.

- Lord Battle

*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not effect the rating.

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