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THE BOY (2016)

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Supernatural thriller is OK, but could have benefited from a little more intensity, as it is a bit too laid back for it’s own good. Story finds pretty Greta (Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan) traveling to the UK to get away from an abusive relationship and landing a job as a nanny for an elderly couple (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) at their large, secluded mansion…never a good sign. She is to watch their son Brahms while they are away on vacation. Greta soon finds that Brahms is actually not a living child but a creepy porcelain doll…another bad sign. As her stay commences, so do strange occurrences, such as things not being where she left them…especially Brahms. She soon discovers the real Brahms was a strange boy who died twenty years ago when he was only eight and might even have possibly killed a friend…internal alarms should be going off at this point. Does the boy’s spirit still inhabit the house and what does it want of Greta?…who, obviously stays.

Flick is well-directed by William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside, Wer) from a script from Stacey Menear and is filled with familiar tropes of similar flicks. These customary ingredients are sometimes used well here, as the film has atmosphere and there are some genuinely spooky moments, but it also fails to really grab us when it needs too. Sometimes Bell guides the proceedings a little too laid back and the film definitely needed more punch in it’s last act. It also loses some steam about two thirds of the way through, instead of picking up momentum which would have been better. It’s in it’s final reel that the film gets most cliché and even a little silly and that would have been fine, if Bell matched it with some real intensity and suspense. He doesn’t. We’ve seen it all before, when we get our big reveal and Bell could have given it far more impact to distract us from the familiarity. It’s not all that shocking when we learn the real secrets behind Brahms and his porcelain stand-in and with some solid suspense and a little more punch to the action, we could have overlooked it and had a better time. As it is, it’s just a routine conclusion to a fairly routine story and it needed a more inventive and gutsy touch to make it work. There is some great cinematography by Daniel Pearl and a spooky score by Bear McCreary to add atmosphere, but the film needs, for lack of a better word, more balls.

The cast are all fine. Lauren Cohan makes a really solid girl-next-door heroine and it’s too bad she’s not given more to do. After the first act her character starts to accept her situation and even takes a liking to the doll…which is a bit hard to swallow. That, of course, is fault of the script not the actress, who plays it well. Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle make for a creepy old couple as The Heelshire’s. They don’t have much screen time, but are effective in what they do. Rupert Evans is charming as a local delivery man who takes a shine to Greta and Ben Robinson is OK as her generic abusive boyfriend, who we know from the start will show up at some point.

I was never bored here, but was never thrilled either. It was a moderately entertaining diversion with a likable heroine and did have some spooky moments. Overall, it felt like I’ve seen this movie before and more than once and director William Brent Bell didn’t help matters by giving the film a far too subtle approach and doing nothing really interesting with some very familiar plot elements. Worth a look if there is nothing else to watch, or you are a fan of Cohan.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 Brahms

boy rating





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THE CANAL (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Irish horror flick finds film archivist David Williams (Rupert Evans) about to become a father and buying a new house with his wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra). Five years later, things take a turn for the worse as David catches his wife cheating and sees police archive footage from 1902 revealing a grisly murder that took place in his very house. He starts to see things, too and when his philandering wife turns up dead, an apparent accident, in the nearby canal, David finds the area has a history of gruesome deaths. The canal has held many bodies and that a shadowy figure may be responsible…or is David simply loosing his mind due to his recent emotional traumas? Either way, his son Billy (Calum Heath) and nanny Sophia (Kelly Byrne) may be in grave danger, but is it from some supernatural force…or David himself?

Writer/director Ivan Kavanagh tries really hard, but something is simply missing from this psychological/supernatural thriller. I never found myself connecting with the distant David even before his troubles begin and despite some spooky visuals, the film never chilled me or spooked me until, literally the last 10 minutes. Too little and too late. Kavanagh gives his horror a dreadfully slow pace and Evans’ emotionally detached performance keeps you from caring or bonding with the character and even in the film’s third act, where things really start to come unglued, at that point we are too distant from the story and events within to really care or be emotionally invested. Is there something supernatural haunting David and the area he lives in, or is he creating delusions to suppress his anger, sadness and possible guilt over his wife’s infidelity and death? We really don’t get involved enough to care and this greatly diminishes an effectively creepy ending. At least Kavanagh leaves us with a little bit of a chill before the credits roll. Maybe a little more time should have been spent with David and Alice, so the shock of her adultery and the impact of David’s pain sunk in better, or perhaps Ivan Kavanagh should have been less obvious with his borrowed horror trappings, such as long haired female ghosts, scratchy old film footage and powder on the floor, ala Paranormal Activity. Either way, the film just never grabbed me like it should and I never felt any strong emotion in the storytelling. It’s a decent effort that never really achieves what it sets out to, despite a director who does seem to have some skill in what he does. He just needs to work a little harder at getting us to become emotionally involved in his stories, so his visuals aren’t without weight.

As for the director’s work with his actors…as said earlier Evans, gives a very detached performance. Even before things start to get weird and go wrong, he just seems off and that alienates us from really clicking with him from the beginning. Hoekstra is pretty as Alice, but also seems a bit off, so her infidelities come as no surprise either. The real star is cute little Calum Heath as their five year-old son Billy, who sticks with dad no matter how crazy he gets. There is also a sympathetic turn by Antonia Campbell-Hughes as David’s caring co-worker Claire and cutie Kelly Byrne does a nice job as Billy’s terrified, but loyal nanny, Sophie. Steve Oram rounds out as a cop who just comes off as a smug douche. A mixed bag performance wise which implies Kavanagh needs to either strengthen his relationship with his performers or trust their instincts a bit more. One would have to be an on-set observer to decide which it is.

What can I say? There has been a lot of positive buzz for this flick, but it didn’t grab me. Director Ivan Kavanagh is a competent filmmaker and has a nice visual style, but there is an emotional detachment to his characters and his directing that keeps one from really getting pulled into the story and deeply effected by his scenes of horror. He seemed to finally get things together in the last ten minutes, or so, but that is far too little and too late to really consider this a totally successful flick. We’ve also seen a lot of the elements before and used more effectively. Check it out if you are curious. It has it’s fans, so it may work for you, but The Canal left me cold for the most part and adrift in it’s waters of indifference.

A generous 2 and 1/2 movie cameras circa the 1900s.

canal rating