Rating: B+/ Under supervised and curiously cold in temperament, nine-year-old Ted Henley (Jared Breeze) is the son of a depressed father (David Morse) who is the proprietor of a shabby roadside hotel nestled within the mountains of the American West. Left pretty much to do his own thing throughout the interminable days and nights, Ted lets his freak flag fly, and sociopathic urges slowly raise their ugly head. The impulses are exacerbated by the arrival of a shifty type (Rainn Wilson) who is on the run from the police, with whom Ted forms an unlikely (and short-lived) friendship.
This movie is a bit of a sleeper and wasn’t particularly well-received by the critics upon release, which is a shame, because it’s a surprisingly good, chilling film. Sinister and weirdly hypnotic, The Boy practically oozes atmosphere from it’s very first scene, and keeps you guessing until the dark, but strangely satisfying, conclusion. Breeze’s acting is a little spotty at times (understandable because of the exceedingly hard role he is asked to play, which is punctuated by a lack of emotion,) but Wilson and Morse excel in the roles of the mysterious guest to the Henley’s hotel, and Ted’s well-meaning but weak-willed father, respectively. The dialogue and display of human behavior seems surprisingly real for a horror movie, especially one that is essential a killer child movie (a genre rife with ridiculous and interminable films.)
Though this movie isn’t exactly scary (it’s more of a very dark psychological thriller, not for everyone, but definitely my kind of movie,) there are enough suspenseful moments to keep you consistently interested. Some people might think that the film’s somewhat slow and languid pace makes it somehow boring or a waste of time, but it actually had the perfect amount of action for me; the ‘dull’ parts are not actually dull at all, neither are they simply there to fill up screen time. Instead, the uneventful sequences help ratchet up the palpable sense of dread and controlled chaos that lies at the heart of this movie, before it’s balls-out crazy (though perhaps somehow inevitable) finale rolls around.
Although The Boy might be a little too weird, too slow, or just too out there for some people, it proved to be an appealing mix of dark, dark character study (who says kids can’t be evil?) and horror for me. Beautifully shot, very well-acted, and satisfactorily creepy for those who like their horror more low-key and psychological as opposed to fright flicks with constant jump scares and buckets of gore, The Boy definitely isn’t for everybody.
But what it does it does well, and I can’t help hoping that this movie, and movies like it, will get recognized by more film buffs. For those who like their observations on humanity barbed and pitch-black and like movies that get under your skin and stay there, The Boy might just rock your boat. And, without giving away anything, the ending is a treat. Hidden among so many movies that get released each month, this stands as movie that definitely needs an audience.