Blu-ray Review: The Boy (2016)

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Despite going off the rails a bit during its climactic third act, The Boy is a mostly enjoyable exercise in minimalist horror. Director William Brent Bell keeps this 'creepy doll' tale relatively low key for most of the 97-minute runtime. Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) are taking a vacation, but they need a live-in nanny for their son Brahms. Greta (Lauren Cohan; Maggie on AMC's The Walking Dead) lands the job. It pays well, especially considering Greta doesn't have to take care of a real child. Brahms is a life-size porcelain doll.

The Boy is essentially a one-woman showcase for Cohan, who delivers an expertly-controlled performance. Greta is understandably perplexed by the Heelshire's matter-of-fact belief that Brahms is, in fact, a real boy. Figuring it'll be easy money, she plays along until the couple is out of their huge mansion. But once she's all alone, Greta starts to suspect something unusual is afoot. The distant voices and muffled footsteps that follow are basically horror flick cliches, but Cohan convinces us that Greta is a woman on the verge of tipping into insanity.

With grocery deliveryman Malcolm (Rupert Evans) as her only contact at the isolated, gated property, Greta slowly goes a little stir crazy. Malcolm has always humored the Heelshire's, but he's understandably concerned to see Greta treating the doll like a human child. Director Bell loses his grip on the story as Greta's angry ex Cole (Ben Robson) suddenly shows up. And a late twist backfires, pushing an already borderline silly concept into outrageously dumb territory. But fans of Cohan will likely consider The Boy worth a spin, even if the film simply can't quite sustain its initially chilling tone. 
 
BOY BD (303x380).jpg Universal's Blu-ray edition offers a great example of the standard of presentation viewers have come to expect in the high definition era. Daniel Pearl's cinematography is given a beautiful transfer, with plenty of fine detail available despite the generally dark imagery that dominates. The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix is highly effective, with the "jump" moments really leaping out (often nothing more than doors closing, but with startling, bass-heavy presence).

What? Not a single, solitary special feature anywhere on The Boy Blu-ray? It's true that the movie didn't light any fires at the box office, but there had to be an EPK featurette or some deleted scenes lying around somewhere. Oh well, it wasn't to be. As it stands, The Boy is no classic (far from it), but it offers a pretty painless way to kill and hour and a half.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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