Story: Greta (Lauren Cohan) needs a change of scenery, so when a nanny job pops up in England, she jumps at the chance to get some distance and of course, earn some cash. Once she arrives, she sees she will indeed get that distance, as the family’s home is quite remote and she hopes the isolation will help her process some emotional issues. She might not have time for that growth however, as her new bosses have a lot of demands and even more rules, as they want a very specific, very strict plan of care in place for their son. While all of that seems like a lot, it is a great opportunity so she pushes on, though when she finally meets the son, who she will care for, she is shocked, to say the least. The son is a realistic doll and the parents not only treat the doll like a real child, but they expect Greta to as well. Are the parents merely grieving parents using a nontraditional approach to coping with loss, or is there a darker force at work at the isolated estate?
Entertainment Value: The Boy tries to put some fresh paint on the well worn horror trope of the creepy doll, but winds up as mostly forgettable. The movie seems well funded and has good production values, but lacks atmosphere and scares, not to mention it is just dull and often feels drawn out. Perhaps a brisker pace could have added some interest to this one, or if the time was used to craft atmosphere and dread, the horror elements could have fallen into place better. Instead, we have a slow pace and minimal effort made to build moon and tension. So unless long, lingering shots of a doll and some cheap jump scares are what you’re after, the horror elements are likely to disappoint. I like the design of the doll and the location could be effective, but this felt like an assembly line studio horror picture, predictable, safe, and a rather boring ride. All of the required ingredients are here, but the writers and director just can’t make it work. Unless you have to see every creepy doll movie out there, this is one you’re safe to skip in favor of greener pastures.
I don’t think Lauren Cohan is bad here or even miscast, but she is given little to do and in the end, her performance doesn’t leave much of an impression. I suppose the material has to carry that burden, as she does as well as she can with the script, but there are limits to what one performer can do. The dialogue is bland and forgettable, so she can’t punch up the uninteresting writing much and while she tries to put some energy into her turn, the movie in general is so lifeless, it all but sucks all the charisma out of Cohan’s work here. I do think she seems like a capable lead and perhaps with decent writing or sharper direction, she could have flexed a little more in this kind of spotlight role. The cast also includes James Russell, Diana Hardcastle, Rupert Evans, Ben Robson, and Jim Norton.
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