A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Boy is a "creepy doll" horror film. It's not entirely original, but it is well-made, and it could catch on with teen horror-hounds. While not overly gory, characters do die (both by stabbing and via suicide), words are written in blood on a wall, and there are scary sounds and jump-scares, characters fighting and being slammed around, and dead rats. A man and a woman kiss, moving toward sex, but they're interrupted; there's also some flirting and shots of a woman taking a shower (no graphic nudity) and wearing a towel and underwear. Language is infrequent but includes uses of "s--t," "bitch," and "hell." A character drinks wine in one sequence.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
American nanny Greta (Lauren Cohan) takes a job in a remote mansion in the English countryside, where she's told she'll be looking after a boy named Brahms. But when she arrives, Greta's shocked to see that Brahms is actually a doll -- and that his "parents" (Diana Hardcastle and Jim Norton) want her to follow a daily routine with it while they're on holiday. At first, Greta ignores the doll, but then strange things start happening: Her clothes disappear, and she finds herself locked in the attic at night. A handsome grocery delivery man, Malcolm (Rupert Evans), tells her everything he knows about the family and helps out, but nothing can prepare Greta for what's really going on inside the house.
Is it any good?
While it's not a terribly original entry in the "creepy doll" horror subgenre, this fright flick nonetheless offers interesting characters, a strong cast, expert pacing, and a spooky atmosphere. Resorting to annoying jump-scares only a couple of times, director William Brent Bell (of the decidedly inferior The Devil Inside) takes his time exploring the scary old house, using animal heads, off-kilter angles, and sound to give THE BOY a sense of dread. Bell even goes back to that old standby, the shower scene, to add vulnerability to his character.
The scary things that actually happen are nothing new, but that they happen to the appealing Greta helps a great deal. She seems like a real person with good sense and an actual past, and she relates to Malcolm in a genuine way. Likewise, veteran English thespians Hardcastle and Norton bring dignity and style to their roles, which could easily have been jokey throwaways.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Boy's violence. Which threat was scarier, the one from real life or the one from the doll? How much violence was actually shown? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Is the movie scary? How does it compare to other horror movies you've seen? What's the appeal of the horror genre? What about "scary doll" movies?
What would you have done in Greta's place? Take care of the doll? Ignore it and have a good time? Run?
Greta has been victimized by various men; does she stand up for herself? How?
- In theaters: January 22, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: May 10, 2016
- Cast: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Diana Hardcastle
- Director: William Brent Bell
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence and terror, and for some thematic material
- Last updated: February 21, 2020
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