William Brent Bell’s The Boy has all the elements of a modern Gothic thriller: you’ve got the heroine with a dark past, a pair of menacing elderly folks, the handsome potential love interest, and a creepy mansion.
If The Boy had managed to put all the puzzle pieces together, this movie could have rivaled Nicole Kidman’s The Others as one of my favorite ghost stories. As it stands, it’s merely a pretty solid waste of two hours or so.
Lauren Cohan (Maggie, The Walking Dead) carries the film as Greta, an emotionally damaged American woman who flees a tragic past for a nannying job in England. Greta has just been hired by the Heelshire family to look after their rather unusual son, Brahms.
The sense of foreboding menace—particularly when you get those shots of Illya’s reflection in the mirror, slowly unzipping his jacket and reaching for his gun—made my skin crawl with equal parts anticipation and terror.
There’s just something about viewing Illya not only through the filter of Napoleon but also through the reflection in the mirror that set my teeth on edge. The audience has undoubtedly come to care about Illya, and in this moment we’re distanced from him, disconnected.
In the beginning of the movie, Illya’s an inhuman shadow that stalks Napoleon and Gaby through the streets of Berlin. He’s subsequently humanized through his interactions with the two of them, but especially Gaby. The movie, by calling back to those early scenes, is forcing us to ask ourselves whether anything has really changed. Is the Illya we came to care for—the Illya who came to care for Gaby and Napoleon and vice versa—real? Or is it the shadowy, monstrous form we—and Napoleon—first glimpsed in the mirror in East Berlin?
The answer is, of course, yes. Everything has changed. Illya has changed. And, I think, we know that, instinctively. But the movie does a very good job here of forcing us to confront the uncomfortable reality that: maybe nothing has actually changed.
And: they might not all get out of this alive.
(Originally posted on Tumblr. Minor (very minor) edits have been made.)