Bell confounds expectations somewhat and The Boy is his best film to date (with reservations). Bell has borrowed from the English ghost story and done an exemplary job of recreating its atmosphere and surroundings. The only thing that irks me about this is that what we have is not a legitimate British ghost story it was filmed at Craigdarroch Castle on Vancouver Island, which certainly looks the real deal. More to the point, it for no apparent purpose writes an American actress in as the identification character. There is nothing in the film that could not have been far more credibly conducted using a British actress and it unbalances it to have to so blatantly American-wash the story it is not even for the purpose of squeezing in a well-known actress as Lauran Cohans only real prior fame has been as a regular on The Walking Dead (2010 ). (That said, her anonymous performance is easily overshadowed by the charming and likeable British actor Rupert Evans).
Like Guillermo Del Toros Crimson Peak (2015) that came out a few months earlier, The Boy is an American production revisiting the setting of the British ghost story, even if neither quite end up being ghost stories that are told. An enormous amount of detail has been placed into perfecting the design of the house. The team have done a superlative job in getting the set dressings and look of the house down perfectly. Within this, Bell does a fine job in creating a haunted and creepy mood. There is a certain unnerving implacability to the doll that remains unmoving and blankly staring throughout or is found having been moved when she turns her back. On these grounds alone, The Boy starts to seem very promising.
By even the three-quarters point, I was quite prepared to give The Boy a favourable review and a three-star rating. Alas, the film then goes and kills it by a lame twist revelation as to what is happening. [PLOT SPOILERS] Here we learn that there is actually a real Brahms a boy-man who keeps his face hidden behind a Phantom of the Opera-like mask and hides within the walls of the house, a plot revelation borrowed from the recent Housebound (2014). The moving of the doll is one that he has apparently been sneaking out to do. At no point in any of this does the film establish any rationale as to why the family are keeping up the pretence that the doll is alive and, given that they forbid any visitors, even why they would need to keep their son hidden inside the walls away from the world. It may seem odd to say this but I could quite easily have brought the notion of Brahms come to life as another evil doll film a la Childs Play (1988) and sequels or Annabelle (2014) but the very act of revealing that everything was just the mundane machinations of someone hiding in the walls turns the scenario into something absurd.
The Boy should not be confused with The Boy (2015), a far more interesting but far less high-profile film about a psychopathic child that came out some months earlier.