The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan makes her big screen debut in this daft devil doll drama as Greta, a young American nanny fleeing her own domestic crisis and taking up residence at an unfeasibly sprawling creepy old house in the English countryside. She’s here to look after Brahms, the eight year-old son of a surprisingly elderly couple who are off; it appears, on a long-overdue holiday. Much to Greta’s surprise Brahms turns out to be an eerie-looking doll with cold, porcelain features and empty staring eyes. Greta is left with list of do’s and don’ts for the immobile infant’s care and attention, while his haunted-looking folks are away. His ‘parents’ are clearly quite nuts but instead of telling them “It’s a puppet, you’re both mentalists, I’m off” and heading straight back to the set of The Walking Dead Greta doesn’t seem especially disturbed and decides to stay in the creaking old house for months (she needs the dosh) looking after Brahms whose needs, you’d think, are likely to be pretty spartan.
For much of its running time The Boy is both very dull and really very silly. The thrills come oozing out of the screen like cliché-filled treacle; Greta has dreams in which Brahms is alive (a trick the film pulls twice), she receives strange crackling phone calls (it’s a child’s voice!) and she hears odd sounds all around the house. Have no fear, it’s just the creaking of the script; it seems that Brahms isn’t just a grotesque china child, he’s up and about hiding Greta’s shoes and playing classical music at eardrum-shattering volume. Greta’s only friend is Malcolm (Evans), the family’s friendly neighbourhood grocery boy/man and he becomes understandably sceptical of Greta’s claims that Brahms is alive and well, and moving around the house quite happily. Eventually Greta not only has Brahms and his antics to worry about, but her overpowering boyfriend has tracked her down and is determined to drag her back home to the US of A. Brahms will be a bit pissed about that…
The Boy is saved from the dumper by a useful, if not entirely surprising, narrative twist, which does at least try to pull the rug out from under us, even as it sends the film hurtling into classic mad slasher territory. But it’s far from enough to restore the film’s tenuous credibility; the whole scenario demands too much suspension of disbelief and the leaps in logic the story has to make to even vaguely hang together are, in the end, just too much to allow us to take the thing even remotely seriously. On the plus side, director Bell does his best to keep the film’s motor running, even when the fuel tank is perilously low and it’s nice to see Cohan given the chance to do a bit more than shout “Glen!” every now and again before thrusting a knife into a zombie’s skull. But as a film The Boy doesn’t offer her much of an opportunity to shine, although she hurls herself into the incredible and fatuous story with a gusto it rarely deserves. This is one Boy, which doesn’t really need to be seen or heard.
THE BOY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM BRENT BELL / SCREENPLAY: STACEY MENEAR / STARRING: LAUREN COHAN, RUPERT EVANS, JIM NORTON, DIANA HARDCASTLE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW