• Boy, The (Universal)

    Released By: Universal
    Released On: May 10, 2016
    Director: William Brent Bell
    Cast:Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson
    Year: 2016
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    The Movie:

    How hard is it to make a creepy movie about a life-like porcelain doll? Not hard at all, says I, the guy who has never made a movie in his life. But really, it shouldn't be difficult. Take a life-like porcelain doll. Put it in a creepy setting, like an old house. Make that doll do some spooky possessed stuff that only certain people can see. Have the doll show up where it shouldn't be... staring. Boom. Done.

    William Brent Bell has got some of those ingredients correct in Universal's The Boy. Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) gets away from an abusive relationship by answering the call for a nanny in jolly old England. It seems like a good plan; the house may be a huge, old, spooky mansion, but it's remote enough that her restraining order-ignoring ex should have difficulty finding it. The elderly Heelshire couple she's sitting for seem to have a few screws loose, but the grocery delivery guy Malcolm is kinda cute, and very, very welcoming. A list of rules is par for the course when it comes to looking after a young boy, even though Mrs. Heelshire seems strangely adamant that tasks be followed to the letter; with the warning that ignoring the rules may result in the young Brahms "rejecting" her, as he has all of his other nannies. Music appreciation and education in poetry shall be carried out daily, along with the recital of prayers before bed, and there are to be NO guests, whatsoever. With the strict foundation laid, it's time for Greta to meet her eight year-old charge... who turns out to be a life-like porcelain doll with eerie, haunting eyes.

    In for a penny, in for a pound, thinks Greta, and she quickly agrees to the tasks, sending the Heelshires off on a well-deserved and long overdue vacation. The new nanny gets down to the business of nannying right away, by throwing a blanket over the disturbing doll and getting ripped on wine to the point of napping. Unfortunately for Greta, getting loaded and passing out aren't on the list of acceptable child-minding tasks, and she awakens to the sound of a boy crying... and a mysteriously uncovered Brahms. Greta quickly learns that breaking Brahms' routine has consequences; items go missing, somebody or something keeps phoning the house, Brahms seems to be able to move around unaided, and Greta ends up locked in the attic, cancelling her night out on the town with Malcolm.

    Frightened into submission, Greta becomes a doting caregiver, giving Brahms daily lessons and showering the doll with affection, and the supernatural happenings in the house become more pleasant... with a mysterious somebody or something even making her favourite sandwich for her. But digging further into the Heelshire's history turns up some disturbing family secrets that could be dangerous to the nanny, and if that weren't enough, an unhealthy blast from her own past decides to show up. Caught between a rock, a hard place, and a creepy-ass doll, Greta finds out that babysitting isn't all about raiding the fridge and having boys over.

    Right out of the gate, The Boy is an effective thriller. The recipe has been followed. A scary old house, dark family secrets, atmosphere, and porcelain doll with eyes that follow you around the room. Done. Mrs. Heelshire's interaction with her "son" at the beginning of the film raises the hairs on the back of your neck and makes your skin crawl. When the parents leave and Greta is alone in the house with Brahms, we're convinced that The Boy is going to deliver. And it doesn't have to do much. Lingering shots on that doll, a jump scare here and there, and we're pretty much hooked. But The Boy loses steam far too quickly, as it takes us on a journey that doesn't seem to make any sense. By the time it becomes apparent where we're going with the story of Brahms... it's just stupid. Is it trying to be too complex? Is it trying to be different? I have no idea. It's just dumb. "This is idiotic," I said, "why would they do this?"

    I don't know. The Boy has, on the surface, what it should have. Everything mentioned prior, even sweeping bass oscillations that everyone loves, and heavy, heavy use of the surrounds to create atmosphere. The casting is decent for the most part, with the exception of Ben Robson, who is god-awful terrible. But the story, once we get past the introduction of Brahms, is lousy writing, made worse by a director who is an obvious technohead... attempting to make every shot look as complex as possible. The writing in the last part of the film, coupled with the flamboyance in visuals, stomps all over the ambiance created in the first part of the film. It just ruins it completely, sending The Boy out on a "What a total waste of time" note.


    Universal brings The Boy to Blu-ray (with a high definition download code available) in a 2.40:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks fantastic. Blacks are deep, dark scenes retain their clarity, and detail is crisp, helping to create some wonderful atmosphere as the film opens.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (English) is well-done also, with heavy use of the surrounds and subwoofer bringing the soundstage to life. Dialogue remains clear and balanced adequately with the score and effects, and there are no issues to speak of.

    French and Spanish subtitles, as well as English SDH are available.

    There are no extras to be found on the disc, not even a trailer.

    The Final Word:

    Proof that a whole lot of budget and major studio backing does not a good film make. The Boy starts out on the right foot, but is quickly beaten down by a lousy story and a terrible ending. The transfer looks nice, but the barebones aspect of this regularly-priced Blu-ray gives it a lack of appeal.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!