William Brent Bell’s 2016 The Boy plays a neat trick on us. The film poses as one genre of horror and then reveals itself to be another. It begins with Greta (Lauren Cohan), an American who, after escaping an abusive relationship that resulted in a miscarriage, travels to Britain to work as a live-in nanny for Brahms, the son of an old English couple, the Heelshires, who live in a mansion in the middle of nowhere. When Greta arrives, she discovers something strange about Brahms: he is a doll, the spitting image of the real Brahms, the Heelshires’ dead son, who died in a housefire years back but is “still with us,” the father explains.
2016 | PG-13 | USA | William Brent Bell | 97 min
Summary: The Boy brilliantly weaves together two very different sub-genres to show how crucial loss and grief are to the horror tradition.
Directed by William Brent Bell (of The Devil Inside ) and written by Stacey Menear, The Boy follows Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan—known to most of us as Maggie from AMC’s The Walking Dead) as she travels to England from the US to take a nanny position at an isolated house in the country. She finds herself in a strange position, to say the least, when she is introduced to her new charge. Brahms is a doll. After his parents (the Heelshires) leave for their first “holiday” in years (which turns out to be not quite a holiday), Greta is left alone with Brahms—told she must adhere strictly to a list of rules. She must assist Brahms through a daily schedule of eating, school work, music, bedtime reading and kisses goodnight; she must never cover his face, never take him out of the house, and never leave him alone. Needless to say, as soon as the Heelshires leave, Greta chucks Brahms on a chair, throws a blanket over him, drinks a bottle of wine, reads a magazine, and falls asleep. Before long, she’s planning a date. After all, she’s not crazy and Brahms is only a doll . . . right?