I missed out on seeing today's film, The Boy, in the cinema when it first came out - partly because I wasn't in a position to see it and partly because I took one look at the trailer and pretty much figured out what was going to happen in the movie immediately. This wasn't because The Boy has one of those trailers that gives everything away either (although it doesn't exactly leave much out), but because it just has one of those plots that's ridiculously easy to read.
Greta Evans has come to England to work as a nanny for a wealthy British family, the Heelshires, but also to escape her violent stalker ex, Cole, who once beat her so badly he caused her to have a miscarriage. Greta expects to be looking after the Heelshires' son, Brahms - she is shocked, however, when she discovers that "Brahms" is, in fact, a porcelain doll, the real boy having died in a fire 25 years previously. As a way to apparently cope with their grief, the Heelshires treat the doll as though he is still their eight-year-old son, and require Greta to care for him while they are away on holiday, leaving her a list of very specific rules to follow as well. At first, Greta pays no attention to the rules, thinking that the doll is just a doll and the Heelshires are just eccentric old people, but strange things soon start to happen around the house and she starts to wonder if something more is going on with the house and the doll than she first believed. At the same time, Greta also learns that her ex has found out where she is staying and there is the threat of him coming to the house in England to force her to go back to him. Is Brahms' spirit somehow in the porcelain doll that represents him, or is there a much more insidious explanation for the strange events that go on inside the house?
As an experiment, before I sat down to watch The Boy, I wrote down what I thought would happen in the film, including the inevitable revelation about Brahms Heelshire and the doll, just to see how accurate I could be. The fact that I got nearly everything right apart from the existence of Cole the abusive stalker ex (and one other incidental plot twist), does not speak well for the film. Also, so I can actually discuss these things without making huge chunks of this review in hidden text, consider everything past this paragraph a great big SPOILER (just in case you have some time to kill after a recent trepanation and decide you want to watch the film blind).
So yes, Brahms did not, in fact, die in the fire when he was eight and has been living in the walls of the family home ever since. His parents, needing to keep his continued existence a secret, created the doll and the rules to hide their behaviour to him and to deflect any attention onto their eccentric ways, but also to control him because Brahms was most probably a budding psychopath even before the fire and his subsequent life cosplaying as Roach from The People Under The Stairs. But after 25 years they've grown weary of the charade, and so hired Greta to not only care for him but also for Brahms to take as his "mate" or wife or whatever you want to call it. I know, it's shocking, isn't it? You'd never have guessed any of this from the trailer that doesn't lay all of this out with a trowel.
The Boy also manages to engineer a third act where the Brahms, the psychotic man-child who's been living inside the walls of his home for a quarter of a century squares off against Cole, the abusive stalker ex... and Brahms manages to come out as the more sympathetic of the two. Nature versus nurture, I suppose, although as I said, Brahms was clearly heading down the path to violent psychopath even before he became Brahms-in-the-Walls. Although the film even manages to blow even this one halfway-interesting part of the film, as when Brahms bursts through the wall to attack Cole, all I could think of was the Kool-Aid Man.
As for the rest of the film? It's dull - interminably so. One hour of The Boy felt more like two, as Maggie from The Walking Dead wanders round the Heelshires' home and alternates between creeped out by the Brahms doll and mothering it. Periodically John Myers from Hellboy (or if you really want to condemn him, Reeves from Tank 432) turns up to awkwardly flirt with Greta and be repeatedly shot down, and provide episodic exposition to fill in more of Brahms' backstory. It's made even worse when you know you've already figured out everything that's happening and are just waiting for the film and the characters to catch up with you so you can get to the inevitable climax where Greta has to face down Brahms-in-the-Walls, escape, and then the film can end on a shot that leaves the door open for a sequel that will, I pray to Eris, never happen.
Considering that The Boy came out only a couple of years after Annabelle and creepy-looking dolls in supernatural thrillers were very much in vogue at the time, I find myself quite suspicious that the film was made this way to cash in on the trend at the time. Which is another example of lazy filmmaking - when I was growing up, creepy murderous dolls actually got up and did all their killing themselves rather than just sat there hoping to creep people out and/or acting as psychological transference devices that lead to an ending that reminds you of Friday the 13th Part 2 and make you ponder watching that instead.
And is it just me, or does the portrait of child Brahms look like the mascot of MAD Magazine?