Starring David Morse, Rainn Wilson, Jared Breeze
This is the type of frightening, borderline horror film, exercising a great amount of restraint I like to see. Director Craig William Macneill and writer Clay McLeod Chapman have adapted their short film Henley into a full blown feature starring the same frightening character. While the story leaves many unanswered questions (why is mom in Florida, why isn’t the boy in school) keeping the audience in the dark is part of the experience. Chapman seems to understand that worldwide audiences will always be uncomfortable in an old motel façade; Hitchcock’s Psycho has forever instilled that association. On the surface The Boy could be another creepy kid flick but both Chapman and Macneill make it more than that, exploring the psychology of having a child grow up in such a depleted and socially undernourished situation.
Ted (Breeze) lives at the Mountain Vista Motel with his father John (Morse). The motel has been handed down through generations, yet what was once a tourist stop for the scenic Appalachian Mountain route, has now turned into a middle of nowhere dump. Ted spends his days gathering up road kill for change. When there isn’t a freshly flattened squirrel from the dangerous traffic, Ted lured animals with chips or feed to the middle of a blind curve and watches. His experiment works too well when a passer-by, William (Wilson) strikes a dear and crashes his car. Ted watches the bleeding driver with curiosity, even through the motel window as he recovers from injuries. “Ted is always watching”, John says. Ted easily gets attached to the few guests they have, hoping that someone will eventually take him away from this desolate place.
frightening, borderline horror film, exercising a great amount of restraint.
Produced by Elijah Wood, The Boy is adapted not only from a short film but part of a book that follows Ted as he grows into … whatever darkness awaits him. The idea of a 9-year-old fascinated with death is interesting, not to mention unsettling. He is smart enough to understand the nearby roadway is a weapon and Ted typically gets the upper hand in most of the situations in the film because no one can imagine what he is capable of. Breeze never feels like he is preforming or acting, this is aided by the lack of dialogue in the film and amped up by the nerve-racking score. The Boy takes place in 1989 which is essential for much of the isolation and lack of technology.
“This is a dead motel, the rooms just don’t know it yet,” John says as he watches the family business deteriorate. Ted seems ready to move away at any moment, almost as if he understands the potential for darkness surrounding him. The film reaffirms the notion of creepy children in thrillers and how some parents are not fit to care for a child. It also explores the dangers of alcohol abuse and unsupervised children. The Boy should keep viewers interested in a higher quality of genre storytelling in suspense throughout, but if you are looking for a bloody, gory, surface level fright flick, this isn’t for you.
Succeeds with a balance of psychological insight and unsettling social malnourishment.