THE BOY (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Violence and Terror, and for some Thematic Material

Boy poster

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Written by: Stacey Menear

Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle & Ben Robson

To be perfectly honest, my expectations were not very high walking into this movie for three reasons. The first being that January is typically a dump month for movies that studios have no faith in and this is especially true for horror films. The second reason is that the “killer doll” subgenre has been done to death twice over at this point. The third (and final) reason was the director: William Brent Bell, the man who brought us a killer video game, one of the worst demonic possession films in existence, and one of the worst horror films that I’ve ever seen. However, THE BOY is easily the best thing that Bell has directed thus far. That’s not saying much, but it is saying something. THE BOY is a middle-of-the-road PG-13 horror flick that has the pieces for a superbly creepy story, but never quite fits them together in an original way. It’s a watchable, though forgettable, experience.

Boy 1

Greta has traveled to Britain in order to take a well-paying nanny position. Her employers are the Heelshires, a strange old couple who believe that a small porcelain doll is actually their son. In order to get a steady cash flow and quiet time to herself, Greta takes the nanny position and watches over Brahms (the creepy inanimate doll). She’s given a list of rules to follow in order to properly take care of Brahms, but promptly ignores them (wouldn’t you?). However, this could be a potentially deadly mistake as strange things begin to happen in the large countryside mansion, including items going missing and Brahms appearing to move on his own.

Boy 2

Thus far, THE BOY doesn’t sound like anything too remarkable or special in the horror cannon. What can be applauded is the use of an effectively eerie atmosphere. The fog-laden, antique-filled setting of the Heelshire mansion is an appropriately creepy one for a story like this. The film looks good for the most part and there are actually a number of suspenseful moments. The film isn’t above including a few jump scares that come in the form of nightmares. For the most part, it relies on less-is-more sensibilities that echoes effective horror films of the past. For a solid portion of the story, the viewer is left in the dark as to whether Brahms is actually alive or Greta is just going crazy. A similar psychological approach was used in underrated evil doll films like MAGIC and PIN. Also, director Bell seems to be attempting to shake off the laziness displayed in his previous work.

Boy 3

THE BOY doesn’t do so well when it comes to characters. Though an honest-to-God attempt is made to flesh her out, Greta is not much of a compelling protagonist. This comes at no fault of Lauren Cohan’s performance (as she’s bringing a typical scream queen persona to the table), but simply due to clichéd writing that reveals a couple of potentially emotional developments in rather forced ways. Rupert Evans is okay as the potential love-interest and exposition-spewing delivery man, but those are about the only two purposes that his character serves. The stoic-faced Brahms doll outshines pretty much every performance on the screen, save for Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle as the Heelshire couple (who receive a total screen time of about five minutes).

Boy 4

As far as the screenplay goes, THE BOY serves as a watchable little slow-burn that’s sure to scare the crap out of filmgoers who haven’t watched many horror films before. It’s not necessarily good, but not anywhere near bad either…until a certain point in the final third. This story has a great idea in a last-act plot twist, but this third-act revelation wasn’t executed with enough care or attention to detail to make it memorable or effective. I love the idea of this ending, but the film’s shoddy handling of it makes it into an eye-rolling scene that opens up a ton of plot holes instead of a disturbing conclusion. Overall, THE BOY is a middle-of-the-road PG-13 horror flick aimed at the tween crowd. It’s far better than anything else William Brent Bell has directed thus far, but remains a film that’s brimming with unfulfilled potential (you’ll see what I mean if you get someone to spoil the ending).

Grade: C

WER (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence, Gruesome Images and Language

Wer poster

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Written by: William Brent Bell & Matthew Peterman

Starring: A.J. Cook, Brian Scott O’Connor, Vik Sahay, Sebastian Roche & Stephanie Lemelin

I really don’t want this review to go into personal attack territory. I sincerely promise that I am making a conscious effort not to resort to petty insults regarding the director/writer of this film. I will just say this on William Brent Bell. The man has yet to make a good horror film. It’s not even like his movies are just mediocre. They appear to be on a steady decline. STAY ALIVE sucked, but it was watchable in the sense of laughing through all the idiotic ideas thrown into a plot that may have been fun in any other hands. There was no excuse for THE DEVIL INSIDE winding up so terrible, especially the lack of a palpable conclusion. In my experience of seeing DEVIL INSIDE opening night, I witnessed audiences throwing things at the screen, booing, and even spitting on the theater floors. Needless to say that there’s a very good reason that WER (the latest from Bell) has only seen release in a few foreign countries thus far.

Wer 1

It’s currently available to import from Japan if you feel the need, but I wouldn’t recommend giving this film a second thought. WER is the worst werewolf movie I’ve ever seen and one of the worst horror movies I’ve ever seen in my life (keep in mind that I ran a horror-dedicated review site from 2010-2013). It’s a piece of cinematic garbage that doesn’t deserve to see the light of day and if there’s any justice in the cinematic world, it will be dumped with little fanfare direct-to-DVD. Bell tries to take the different route in approaching a monster that hasn’t had many good films surrounding it (GINGER SNAPS was the last great one) and nothing works in the film’s favor. There are few words that can get across the astounding levels of awful this movie reaches.

Wer 2

WER is shot between found footage and traditional narrative (though the nauseating camera work would lead you to believe otherwise). A family is attacked by a savage beast and all that remains (aside from a couple of dismembered corpses) is a scarred survivor. Thus a manhunt ensues after a few crucial details come to light revealing that a human is responsible for the slayings. Kate, a defense attorney living in France, is brought to defend the one and only suspect, Talan. Talan is a hulking figure, but carries a rare disease that seemingly makes it impossible for him to have carried out the bloody attack. The case get complicated as Kate learns that Talan may in fact be a “werewolf” and things get a little hairy (see what I did there?).

Wer 3

It would be great if WER was any damn good or even remotely scary. Instead, Bell and co-writer Matthew Peterman take a slow-burn route. I’d applaud them for this approach, if there were any characters worth giving a shit about. We get some atypical drama revolving around a failed relationship and things eventually get into the “werewolf” action around the halfway mark. I put the word “werewolf” in quotes, because I do not consider WER to be a movie revolving around the much beloved vicious beast that devours by the full moon. In an attempt to reinvent the legend, Talon is made into a more human version of the monster. By which I mean, there’s not a full-on transformation sequence with him growing a snout, claws, or looking remotely like a wolf. Instead, Talon comes off more like resembling a caveman, than the title monster this movie is supposedly named after. That’s also a dumb title. Seriously, WER? That’s it.

Wer 4

Bad characters and horrid acting bring an even worse script to life. A.J. Cook, who was pretty good in FINAL DESTINATION 2, doesn’t bring anything to the screen. The camera work, even in the traditional narrative mode, is shaky enough to be considered found footage quality. Bad CGI gore is showcased in what little bloody scenes there are. Mainly, WER is guilty of the cardinal sin in a movie: it’s boring! STAY ALIVE and THE DEVIL INSIDE, as lame as they both are, didn’t come off as completely dull. That’s what WER is. It’s a terrible film any way you slice it. Also this is a pet peeve, but people need to stop calling WER a found footage horror film. Half of it is found footage and the other half is really cheap looking camera work. It all comes off as bad filmmaking.

Wer 5

For a movie called WER, there aren’t any real werewolves. Just a shirtless bad actor running around acting like a werewolf. Even if you can take this unconventional approach on a beloved monster, everything else feels cheap and badly executed. WER is currently available on Japanese home video, but I wouldn’t recommend spending a penny on this film. For all the bad-mouthing and seething hatred that I’m bringing to this review, I will give Bell credit on one single moment. Instead of having the clichéd jump-scare with a cat, he changes the animal to a pig. It still sucks, but I’ll admit that I had a hearty laugh in that one second.

Grade: F

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