There’s a moment in The Boy in which our protagonist essentially exclaims, “Oh, wow! This doll is alive! I knew it!” Even more peculiar is that it occurs only seconds after proving her suspicions to a new friend, with his excitement somewhere along the lines of, “Hey, that’s pretty neat!” It’s not until later that night that they suspect this “living” doll might be something they should fear. However to us, the viewer, we’ve received plenty of visual and audio clues from the very beginning to know that this doll means harm.
The aforementioned doll, a petite, porcelain version of a child, fills the part of the titular boy. With hollow features and an eerie pallor, the doll exists as a coping device for an older couple (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) who lost their son 20 years prior.
Lauren Cohan, of “The Walking Dead” fame, plays the role of Greta Evans, an American who answers an ad from across the pond and arrives in the UK to become the boy’s caretaker. Much to her surprise, she doesn’t learn that The Boy is a doll and not a real child until her arrival at the Hillshire family estate. Left with a set of rules and told that they must be followed in order to keep the boy (named Brahms) happy, Greta quickly dismisses them and assumes the older couple is just off their rockers; as long as she stays and makes them think she took their doll seriously, she can easily collect the payment she’s travelled all that way for. Not long after straying from the rules, however, Greta learns that the couple wasn’t kidding—the doll has a life of its own.
As part of the plot device, Greta only gets confirmation of the living doll when she can’t see him: She hears his little footsteps and crying from another room; she draws a chalk outline around him and when she returns, he has moved from it, etc. The truth behind the doll’s ways is explained toward the end in a rather twisted fashion, but the reveal isn’t fleshed out enough and leaves the whole story seeming rather anti-climactic. Even with its flaws, director William Brent Bell makes a flick that contains enough creepy moments to warrant the price of admission. This isn’t Bell’s first horror movie (Wer, The Devil Inside, Stay Alive), but it’s certainly his most mainstream piece to date. If you can handle the ridiculousness of a storyline that revolves around a killer doll, then The Boy should make for a fun date night at the movies.