The Boy Dir. Craig William Macneill

[Chiller Films; 2015]

Styles: character study
Others: Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer

The Boy is a bleak film. Not just its subject matter, but also shot composition and even its score, create an all-around desolate portrayal. The camera lingers on shots of junked up cars, a barren landscape devoid of people, and characters in the throes of their own personal hells. Director Craig William Macneill’s film is a slow burn of a character study, with the hint of doom constantly lurking on the edges until it finally crashlands in a fiery explosion of rage. To that extent, it seems that Macneill perfectly executed what he set out to do: show the life of a growing sociopath in a rural area. It takes a while to pay off, but The Boy also lingers on the brain after watching it — shots, exchanges, characters that haunt for days after the credits roll. There is fearful beauty in its bleakness.

Ted (Jared Breeze) lives with his father (David Morse) at a run down motel in the middle of nowhere. It used to be a thriving place where people would “just come to look at the view,” but now it’s a forgotten afterthought off the highway. Ted spends his days tending to the motel, exploring the woods, picking up roadkill, and pining for a mother that ran away to Florida. When an accident engineered by Ted lands them a semi-permanent guest (Rainn Wilson), Ted begins to get close to the man despite his father’s warnings. Ted clearly doesn’t quite fit in with the world, and the world doesn’t know what to make of the young boy until it’s too late.

A story synopsis for this film doesn’t really do it much service as it’s certainly not a plot-driven vehicle, but rather a character study of young Ted. We watch as he saves up quarters to run away to Florida, as he angrily stomps a chicken to death, as he gets too close to the motel guests and does bizarre things like watching them as they sleep. You know that Ted isn’t right from the get go, when his first action is happily setting out to find a piece of roadkill to collect a quarter from his father. You cringe as he picks up a rabbit, not because he’s done anything but just because he projects an air that says he is incapable of being tender.

Wilson does a good job as the mysterious drifter who gets caught up in Ted’s web, and Morse also exceeds as the put upon father who has no idea what he is raising. But the star is the titular boy, who dominates the screen with his unearthly presence. All of this is to the young actor Breeze’s credit (and to the credit of the director as well). With so little dialogue and action, the kid gives off incredibly creepy vibes with his thousand-yard stare and his sudden violent outbursts. It’s not a sensitive portrayal, in so much as the filmmaker never condones Ted’s actions, but it is a complete study of the boy. After all, Dahmer wasn’t always preying on people, he lived a normalish life as well. But Macneill does a great job in showing just how isolated Ted is, and how dangerous that isolation can be when fostering these unfortunate tendencies.

There’s not much to The Boy (without spoiling the ending that seems to be brewing the entire time). But that’s not a detriment; it’s instead a focused look at one man’s burgeoning personality and just how fractured it is. Is it due to his lack of friends and other people outside of his father? Or was he just born that way and his latent tendencies would bloom even faster in a populated area? The film doesn’t delve into these questions, but simply holds on these bleak images and this lost child, leaving the viewer chilled and disturbed.

Most Read