The Boy (2 stars)

The Boy

Initially atmospheric but ultimately frustrating possessed doll horror

The possessed doll trope has been a horror movie staple from 1945’s Dead of Night to the ongoing Chucky franchise. The success of 2013’s The Conjuring and its spin-off Annabelle are the likely inspirations behind The Boy, a no frills, few thrills dark fantasy featuring a creepy porcelain child-size figure.

The doll is called Brahms, and belongs to shifty elderly couple Mr and Mrs Heelshire (veterans Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle). The Heelshire home is a Gothic pile somewhere in rural England, where US nanny Greta (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan) arrives to take care of their son, only to find Brahms instead. Greta begins a flirtatious relationship with Malcolm (Rupert Evans), who not only delivers her groceries but also reveals that the doll replaced the Heelshires’ son, also called Brahms. The original Brahms was killed in a mysterious house fire, but Greta comes to suspect that not only does the deceased boy’s spirit live on in the doll, but that she’s developing some kind of affinity with whoever, or whatever it is.

Director William Brent Bell has had some success making low budget pulp that delivers a substantial return on investment financially, if not artistically, notably via found-footage shocker The Devil Inside. Bell graduates to a more classical horror style with The Boy, which demonstrates a nice sense of atmosphere in the opening scenes. But a heavy reliance on dream sequences for jump scares reveals that the storyline has nowhere to go, and the climactic twists are underwhelming.

The Boy is aimed squarely at youthful thrill-seekers who will tolerate bloodless shocks (with a PG-13 rating in the US), but it may also attract older audiences who appreciate its Hammer House of Horror tone. Either way, they are likely to be intrigued, frustrated and annoyed in equal measure.

General release from Fri 18 Mar.

The Boy

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • US / China
  • 1h 37min
  • 15
  • Directed by: William Brent Bell
  • Cast: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell
  • UK release: 18 March 2016

US nanny Greta (Cohan), working for an elderly couple in England, finds a doll called Brahms which he suspects is possessed by the spirit of a dead boy. No-frills, few-thrills fantasy, heavily reliant on dream sequences for jump scares, which goes nowhere and takes its time to get there.