Greta (Lauren Cohan) is a young American woman who takes a job as a nanny in a remote English village. She soon discovers that the family's 8-year-old is a life-sized doll that they care for just like a real boy, as a way to cope with the death of their son 20 years prior. After violating a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring Greta's worst nightmare to life, leading her to believe that the doll is actually alive.
Again with the “creepy” dolls. A doll has never been a particularly scary movie monster. They’re small, relatively fragile and they’re especially fun to kick out of a window. This new era of evil dolls seems rather soft as well considering they only move when you’re not looking and usually by some outside for. The doll itself has been reduced to more a tool than a being that destroy your house or slice at your heels.
That being said, I was surprised at how The Boy did a decent job at wrapping me into its weird mystery. Greta (Lauren Cohan) finds the perfect escape from her recent abusive relationship with a temporary nanny position in the United Kingdom. The Heelshire couple appears strict and old with their vintage mansion, but still seem approachable and reasonable. They politely ask for Greta to watch their son Brahms who sounds like a nice enough child. The only catch is that Brahms is a wooden doll. Though Greta is given specific instructions for a daily schedule of activities for Brahms, she neglects this duty and decides to take it easy in the creepy old house while the parents are away on holiday. The local delivery man who keeps the house stocked on food shares her sentiment.
But - wouldn’t you know it - the doll starts appearing in odd places around the house. Items start disappearing and are strewn about throughout the house. Could Brahms be alive or is Greta going crazy? At any rate, Greta initial freaking out subsides after she realizes that tending to Brahms isn’t so tricky or even all the creepy. Sure, he may play with things that he shouldn’t in the house and he has a tendency to play hide and seek when you’re not looking. But that’s essentially kids in a nutshell. Heck, if that’s all kids did, this is the nicest one you’d hope to be watching. The doll doesn’t even backtalk or move when you’re in the room. Even better, if Brahms seems to frighten you, he’ll try to make peace and leave a sandwhich by your door. This is the nicest “creepy doll” I’ve ever seen in a movie.
As Greta slowly develops a relationship with the delivery boy and share in her discoveries about Brahms, her investigation of the real Brahms becomes intriguing. We know the doll is based on an actual son the Heelshire family had, but don’t know much about the specifics on his death. This desire to learn more about Brahms comes off more as a sense of understanding rather pointlessly walking through haunted house origins. It’s aspect I rarely care about in these horror movies, but The Boy gives enough of reason to show some interest.
But then the third act arrives and all the creativity in the script is quickly sucked into a black hole of horror movie cliches. The movie starts becoming dark, violent and creepy out of necessity. It just wouldn’t be a horror movie unless you have some freaky looking character chase people through a house and brutally stab them. This element appears almost random as if the filmmakers had written themselves into a corner and fell back on typical third act horror writing. Granted, I wasn’t expecting The Boy to end with an enduring heartfelt finale, but this just felt random the way it crowbarred in all of the violence and terror at the very end.
Actually, I take that back. I did want to see The Boy end on a more touching note since the movie builds it up as such. Pulling a “gotcha” plot twist towards the end just screamed of laziness the way I’m sure it made audiences roll their eyes. There was a lot to explore with the concept of Brahms - something worth being emotionally invested in as opposed to simple frights. But The Boy just doesn’t have enough faith or ideas to carry this concept all the way home.