Saturday, February 20, 2016

THE BOY (2015) (Blu-ray Review)

THE BOY (2015)
Label: Scream Factory
region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Directyor: Craig William McNeill
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Zuleikha Robinson, Aiden Lovekamp, Bill Sage, David Morse, Jared Breeze, Mike Vogel

Synopsis: In the summer of 1989, nine-year-old Ted Henley (Jared Breeze, Cooties) and his father John (David Morse, True Detective, World War Z) are the proprietors of the Mt. Vista Motel, a crumbling resort buried in the mountains of the American West. Since Ted's mother left, John has drifted into despondency – leaving Ted to fend for himself. In this isolation, unchecked by the bounds of parenting, Ted's darker impulses begin to manifest. The arrival of a mysterious drifter, William Colby (Rainn Wilson, Cooties, The Office), captivates young Ted and the two form a unique friendship – setting the stage for Ted's final, unnerving metamorphosis.

The Boy is something special, an origin story of sorts about a young, nine year-old boy named Ted (Jared Breeze) who lives with his detached father John (David Morse) at the Mt. Vista Motel, a near-death family business somewhere in the dusty Western United States. The motel seems to be circling around the drain of financial ruin, with only a slow-drip f steady business. Young Ted is left to his own dark devices far too often by his father, a quiet man who is detached from his young son, a ghost of a man. Apparently the mother ran off years earlier, abandoning her husband and son for another man. Ted spends his days dutifully cleaning the motel rooms, when done with his chores he litters the nearby main road with chicken feed, luring small animals to their certain deaths. he watches the carnage through binoculars, then picks-up the roadkill for which his father rewards him with a shiny quarter, this is what appears to have been the beginning of the kids creepy death-obsession.

Left to his own devices Ted is able to freely obsess about death, graduating to killing a chicken, yup, we have a young sociopath in the making, luring animals to their death here folks. If his father wasn't so wrapped-up in sadness and numbed with drink he might haven taken notice of what his son was becoming, and have nipped it in the bud before it overwhelmed the boy, but this isn't that sort of story. This is something creepy, something slow-burning, one which build to a fiery crescendo. Actor Jared Breeze does fine work, the kid is not overtly aggressive, he's coldly calculated and the performance psychologically complex, major credit must also be given to director Craig William McNeil for his direction.  

The motel is a mighty boring place, there's not much for a boy to do aside from kill a few animals for fun, but a few comers and goers arrive from time to time, including a young couple with a boy. Their young son nearly becoming Ted's first victim when a friendly game of head-dunking at the motel pool nearly turns deadly when Ted proves unable to control his death-fascination. The most ominous visitor is a bearded man named William Colby (Rainn Wilson) who becomes stranded at the motel through the animal-baiting actions of young Ted. The man is shady and may be an arsonist, proving to be a mirror of what life has in store for Ted down the road. The man and Ted form a friendship, one that makes Ted's father uneasy, and for good reason, it seems he does at least have a few decent parental instincts left about him, but too little, too late. 

The build-up is slow and taught and might prove to be a bit too down-played for those coming into this expecting the usual killer-kid slasher fare, The Boy is not afraid to play it slow and deliberate, creating a dark tone that is cold and creepy. The movie is also very artful and hypnotic in its direction, the long languid scenes look wonderful, and the cast is great. Rainn Wilson has rarely been this creepy or menacing onscreen, and David Morse as the despondent father plays it perfectly, but the anchor is young Breeze, you can see the demon inside this kid early on, but he plays it so cold, not over-the-top, and it works so well. In certain scenes you cannot help but be creeped out by the kid you also feel sympathy for him, he's still a young a boy, and when he's hurt or threatened its hard not to feel for the damn kid.

The Boy arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory looking shiny and new in 1080p HD, with a decent surround sound presentation, though this one is more front-centric. Extras on the disc are limited to a behind-the-scenes making of featurette, featuring interviews with Rainn Wilson and three of the movie's producers, which Elijah Wood, who speak a bit about this being the first in a trilogy of movies following the life of the character of ted, which I would be on board for. Unfortunately they do not include the short film Henley (2011) of which this is based, I would have enjoyed seeing that, there's a clip of it on YouTube for the curious.
If you're a fan of slow-burn psychological cinema with a side order of killer kiddie movies this one comes very highly recommended, coming in somewhere along the lines of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer by way of The Butcher Boy, this is one creepy-kid movie that is worth a watch. 3.5/5

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