REVIEW: ‘The Boy’ is good horror for those getting into horror

The Boy is an easy film to enjoy. The plot involves an American nanny who heads over the Pond to watch a young boy named Brahms in a stately English manor. The twist is that the boy is, in fact, a porcelain doll, even though his parents believe him to be real and alive.

The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan stars as the nanny, Greta Evans, and Hellboy’s Rupert Evans plays Malcolm, the likable grocery man in the local neighborhood. Standing in for the creepy parents are Jim Norton (a theatrical legend) and Diana Hardcastle.

At first, Greta believes the doll is a joke; however, after seeing the cold stares of Brahms’ parents, she realizes that they believe their son is actually alive. The parents are heading away for a bit, so Greta and Brahms are left alone in the voluminous mansion, with only the occasional visit from Malcolm to break up the monotony.Greta is made to feed the doll, tuck the doll in at night and hold him like a baby. This being a horror movie, some strange things start to go bump in the night, and Greta begins to wonder whether this creepy doll is actually more alive than his glass face suggests.

Cohan is a talented actor, someone who is able to play the full range of emotions needed for the Greta character. She’s funny and outgoing at first, although she holds a deep hurt because of a former partner and secret from her past. When Brahms starts freaking her out, she becomes believably scared and desperate.

Evans is enjoyable as Malcolm, although his character is too thinly written and seems like a convenient plot device. Hardcastle and Norton are perfectly cast as the stern, yet loving parents of Brahms.

Director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside), working off a script by Stacey Menear, builds up the spooky atmosphere and has all the requisite elements of a horror film: thunder and lightning, rain, shadows moving, views through a keyhole, heightened music. These elements are individually effective, but they don’t add up to much in the scare category. Adult viewers may find the resulting “horror” of this horror film somewhat disappointing, but for first-time genre fans, The Boy proves to be a solid starting-off point.

These are 98 harmless minutes. Nothing earth-shattering occurs, but the performances and clever plot keep the story buoyant until the end. Don’t expect too many goosebumps, and The Boy can prove a fun, mysterious ride.

By John Soltes / Publisher /

The Boy (2016), directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Menear, stars Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence and terror, and for some thematic material. Rating: ★★½☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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