Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle
Written by: Stacey Menear
Directed by: William Brent Bell
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and terror, and for some thematic material
Running Time: 97
Date: 01/21/2016

The Boy (2016)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Doll Case

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While it's a not-terribly-original entry in the "creepy doll" horror subgenre, this fright flick nonetheless relies on interesting characters, a good 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.

A pretty American nanny, Greta (Lauren Cohan) takes a job in a remote mansion in the English countryside, looking after a boy named Brahms. But when she arrives, she's shocked to see that Brahms is actually a doll, and that its "parents" (Diana Hardcastle and Jim Norton) wish her to follow a daily routine with it while they are on holiday. At first, Greta ignores the doll, but strange things begin to happen; 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.

The scary things that actually happen are nothing new -- Bell even goes back to that old standby, the shower scene, to add vulnerability to his character -- but that they happen to the appealing heroine played by Lauren Cohan helps a great deal. She seems like a real person with good sense and an actual past, and she relates to Rupert Evans's character in a genuine way. Likewise, the veteran English thespians Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle bring dignity and style to their roles, which could easily have been jokey throwaways.

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