Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Boy (2016) [Mini Review]

Director: William Brent Bell
Screenplay: Stacey Menear
Cast: Lauren Cohan (as Greta); Rupert Evans (as Malcolm); Jim Norton (as Mr. Heelshire); Diana Hardcastle (as Mrs. Heelshire); Ben Robson (as Cole)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #10

Note: This review will reveal the ending of The Boy in detail. Read on your discretion.

The premise intrigued me. A young American lass Greta (Cohan) is hired by an elderly couple in England to look after their son Brahms, only for her to immediately learn Brahms is a doll, kept to cope with their decades long grief of losing their son and treated exactly as if it's their living child. Baffled and not pleased at all with this, Greta when they leave immediately puts a blanket over Brahms' head and relaxes in an easy job, only for strange sounds and events to take place that suggest Brahms is very much alive. The film takes a while to get interesting from this beginning, only starting to get potentially gripping when she fully believes the doll is alive and treats Brahms caringly. For the most part before The Boy represents the blander area of modern horror with over eager music, the dragging of plot points etc., but when it gets to this point, represented quite amusingly by Brahms leaving a peanut butter sandwich outside a door she's closed out of pure terror, the offer of how the film could go is potentially tantalising.

Here is when the interesting area The Boy taps into starts to develop, the notion of the uncanny, Sigmund Freud's theory of how people react to something familiar to them but the possibility of this fact disturbing that person, the reason why dolls and in modern times realistic looking robots can still creep people out if they are made to look like us. The idea here, to pinch dialogue from Pinocchio, that Brahms is a real boy is immediately fascinating as the film looks like it's going to ditch the spooky jump scares in favour of an intelligent psychological drama, about to rift on the same tone as Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965). The viewer is drip fed from the beginning that Greta has a troubled past she is fleeing from, an abusive boyfriend who caused her to miscarriage, emotionally attaching herself to Brahms quickly when she doesn't perceive him as a threat. In fact the film looks like it's going to subvert viewers' moral compasses when the boyfriend Cole (Robson) gets to the home and Brahms is seemingly going to stop him from taking his beloved Greta away.

Then the film shoots itself in both feet when Brahms is actually revealed to be alive, turning the film into a psycho killer story with chase scenes, Brahms evil from birth and intent on keeping Greta in his stereotypical basement lair, and destroying any worth to the movie.I became aware that something was suspicious, that there might be a non-supernatural twist, even before the film started when I noticed The Boy was a Chinese-American co-production. This is entirely speculation, with no basis in fact, the possibility likely that the creators of the film went for an exceptionally dumb plot twist instead of something interesting. But what if the film might've been catered for possible mainland Chinese release? Imagine if this is true from pure speculation, and this brings up an issue with how horror films would be made in that country. Unless it's based on Chinese mythology, or can be explained away by trickery or hallucinations in the plot, films with supernatural material or ghosts are banned in mainland China under the belief of preventing suspicion and "cults" existing, something that can be explained if one remembers its previous existence as communist China, communism anti-religion in attitude since Karl Marx called religion opium for the masses. Even the new Ghostbusters movie wasn't safe from this ban, although it does beg the question, for another day, about science fiction blockbusters and fantasy films like the Warcraft movie that do even better in China than in the USA in relation to this.

This might be completely missing the reason why The Boy decided to sabotage itself with the blandness and worst traits of current horror cinema, but if there's any semblance of truth to it, there's a potential issue that could crop up with future horror productions with mainland Chinese co-producers that could injure box office potential after a while. Horror cinema has to repeat plot tropes and clichés already, repeating ideas since Georges Méliès made spooky narratives at the start of cinema, so the idea of forcibly removing supernatural narratives from the well of story ideas could lead to some exceptionally generic films if they have to repeat what's left. That in itself is far and away more interesting than The Boy when it completely disappointed me. 


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