Director: Craig Macneill
Cast: David Morse, Rainn Wilson, Jared Breeze
Spoilers Within: Yes
Originally posted 20th July 2016 on Letterboxd.
Film 4 – #87 in ‘The Hard Drive Randomiser’
Although many people watching this probably torrented it expecting the indistinguishably titled The Boy, I fully intended to watch this after hearing some positive word-of-mouth from friends after its run at festivals in London and Sitges, and after finally taking the time to see what they were recommending to me and coming away fully indifferent, I probably won’t be listening to them any time soon.
I’m fully on board with slower paced, eerie horror, and in fact, the creeping unease that some utilise is often the most reliable source of genuine scares, but The Boy merely succeeds in inching through its narrative at such an unnecessary pace that – by the time the poster-spoiling finale comes around – the journey to get there feels like a time-consuming waste of decent storytelling.
The performances here are fine. Rainn Wilson comes out on top as the out-of-type taciturn drifter, and Jared Breeze has an inner strangeness that lends a great deal of nervousness to every scene he’s in, but both of them falter when going against their fundamental outline: Wilson’s yelling is overly-hysterical, and Breeze’s long blank stares are too explicitly ‘evil’ when the other, subtler moments of his character work much better.
The rest of the cast are littered with forgettable and assumed types (a couple with a similarly aged son; a selection of obnoxious teenagers) that David Morse’s motel owner has nothing really to play against and doesn’t remain in memory. The aforementioned teenagers join at too late a time and are painted as caricatures of college-types with such broad strokes that their sudden, overblown attack on Ted just seemed like a cheap shock without any character or depth behind any of the assailants. This culminated in a morally questionable and sadistic finale that didn’t sit well at all.
Ultimately, the slight bit of tension that had been gradually layered by Ted’s escalating violence is undermined by some patchy sound design, scenes that lingered for just a little too long, and a cartoonishly violent conclusion that left a bad taste in the mouth. At 90 minutes, the film could have been a disquietingly macabre insight into a young sociopaths’ origins, but stretching it out for a further 20 was a poor decision all round. The knowledge that it could have benefited from several cuts and rewrites was a distraction that was hard to overcome, making for a disappointingly disjointed psychological horror.