The Boy plays scary

Compared to most horror films and certainly most January releases, The Boy is rather a pleasant surprise. It’s wellmade and spooky, with some well-timed jolts (and a few well-telegraphed ones) and a dry sense of humor. Pure hokum, of course, but genre fans will get their money’s worth.

Having fended of “The Walking Dead” for several seasons, Lauren Cohan makes her bid for big-screen scream-queen status as Greta, an American in England, fleeing an abusive relationship and hired as the nanny by an affluent older couple (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) to look after their son, Brahms, in a large house in a remote corner of the English countryside.

Brahms, however, is no ordinary boy. In fact, he’s not a boy at all. He’s a lifelike doll that his parents treat as if he were alive, replete with a rigorous daily schedule that Greta is to adhere to when they go away on holiday. “Brahms is not like other children,” his father advises. “He can be particular.”

He also emphasizes that, as far as he and his wife are concerned, “Brahms is very much with us.”

In their absence, Greta approaches her task with good humor, blithely ignoring Brahms’ schedule (uh-oh …), but it’s not long before strange things start happening, causing her to wonder if there aren’t some supernatural shenanigans taking place.

Expertly lensed by cinematographer Daniel Pearl, whose credits range back to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Boy looks great, with a tasty Gothic ambiance that is further accentuated by Bear McCreary’s evocative score.

Cohan is both attractive and intense as the troubled Greta, Norton and Hardcastle play the eccentric civility of their roles with a balance of unspoken dread and melodramatic relish, and Rupert Evans is appealing as a handsome local who provides obligatory story exposition – as well as a love interest for Greta.

Unfortunately, the film saves one of its worst tricks for last, although this does provide an tangible explanation for what has gone on before. There is, inevitably, a requisite fade-out that hints at possible further horrors to come (a genre staple by now). But, by and large, The Boy offers scary fun for a cold winter’s night. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.