SPOOKTASTIC: The Boy (movie review – NO spoilers)

There’s a scene toward the end of horror movie Dead Silence (2007) where the protagonist removes a cloth covering a mysterious shape. “Is that a doll?” asks the detective as he studies the revealed marionette. “It’s not a doll,” says the protagonist. “It’s a boy.”

This captures the central question in The Boy,  William Brent Bell’s new horror movie. Is it a doll, or is it a boy?

 

(from "Dead Silence")

(from “Dead Silence”)

 

I love good possessed-doll horror movies. And bad ones, for that matter.

To write a horror movie review without spoilers is almost to write no review at all. The challenge leaves me, an amateur film critic, with little more to say than, “I liked this movie,” or “I didn’t care for this movie.” But I do want to say a little bit about The Boy.

After the obvious Dead Silence, the next film that comes to mind is Poltergeist (1982). Poltergeist matters because it was my first spooky horror movie, so it set a standard of comparison. (I say “spooky horror” as opposed to “psycho slasher horror,” “serial killer horror,” “sci-fi horror,” “psychological horror,” “mystery horror,” etc.)

Poltergeist made an impression on me partly because I was 14 and new to the genre, but more because it was just a great film. Looking back on it now, after 33 years and countless more horror movies, I can appreciate the restraint and effective use of fright tactics in Poltergeist. The 2015 Poltergeist remake, on the other hand, did nothing but bore me. I couldn’t help but set it against the original in my mind. I rolled my eyes when the family moved into the house and the kid almost immediately discovered a whole box filled with clown dolls. I didn’t finish the movie.

The Poltergeist remake failed me because I wasn’t spooked by a pile of clown dolls in a box. I was spooked by one clown  illuminated in the night at the convergence of built-up of tension and weather, as in the original Poltergeist. That’s pacing. And nuance. And Steven Spielberg. Probably many of us Gen-X’ers derived our fear of clowns from that movie. I know for me, it was that clown that hooked me on the shiver of dread I’ve sought in spooky horror movies ever since. I don’t know that The Boy would inspire any such lasting impression on those who see it as their first spooky horror film, but it’s a solid example of nicely done metaphysical terror. Where spooky horror is concerned, “less is more” works for me.

The Boy has this focus in common with the original Poltergeist. There’s only one “boy” in The Boy.  If a remake of The Boy is ever done and it features triplets instead of a single child, I would roll my eyes and walk away, like I did during the Poltergeist remake. The clown doll in Poltergeist was little more than a prop, but it was the most memorable prop for many of us, and the creators of the remake knew it. That’s why they figured they’d capitalize on its impact by filling a box with clowns and shoving it at us at the beginning of the movie. “You got a major rush from that one scary clown in the first Poltergeist? Here, have a whole bunch of clowns!”

Granted, that box of clowns might be terribly scary to a child who sees the movie, but as an adult who saw the original decades ago and has henceforth proceeded in life with an instilled dread of clowns, that box of clowns was ridiculous.

For a more literal comparison, you could align The Boy with other “possessed doll as main character” films such as Child’s Play or Annabelle. Unlike Chucky and Annabelle, though, Brahms (the titular character in The Boy) isn’t made to look creepy. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I think of “Amelia,” a tale in Karen Black’s Trilogy of Terror (1975). The possessed doll in “Amelia” is so over-the-top in its vicious appearance, it safely clears the level of “trying too hard” and goes straight to campy gore. It’s one of my favorites.

Brahms in The Boy is not a possessed doll-turned-slasher. Brahms is a normal-looking porcelain doll who sits calmly and does basically nothing. Brahms resembles the eight-year-old male child shown in a painting hanging above the stairs in the darkly atmospheric English country manse that provides the setting for the movie.  If the Brahms doll is animate, it’s animate by suggestion only. We do not see it move. It is quiet. It doesn’t go tearing around the house with an upraised dagger. It doesn’t go ripping out people’s tongues. It’s this element of absence that spooks me more than the obvious, albeit entertaining, antics of the possessed dolls in other movies.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-TheBoy2016

 

The Boy features its share of horror movie tropes such as jump-scares and phones that suddenly don’t work and terrifying scenes that turn out to be nightmares, but these tropes are used judiciously and kept to a minimum so the story can evolve of its own accord. It’s a rare horror movie that doesn’t depend solely on cheap tricks to get reactions.

The Boy impressed us with its fresh take on the possessed-doll horror theme. I don’t know what else I could say without spoiling the film, so I’ll stop here. I do recommend this film if you’re a fan of the horror genre, or if you’re just curious.

Oh, and by the way… the clown in Dead Silence is, to date, my favorite of all the scary movie clowns, and that includes the one in Poltergeist. To me, it’s the scariest.

Scarier, even, than the one in Saw.

Halloween Festivities!

HELLo! This image-centric post is brought to you by one of America’s favorite holidays, Halloween, which is TODAY. Yay!!

This is just to say Happy Halloween, and here are a couple of pictures I took of creepy sights around town, and here’s another one of Zombie Callaghan, and here’s one of our jack o-lantern (not in that order), and hey, here are a couple of pics of the cake I made last night – the cake that I’m bringing to our Halloween potluck at work today, because I love my co-workers so much!

As for this evening? After celebrating Halloween pretty much all month, Callaghan and I are going to enjoy a low-key night at home. We’re going to watch this week’s episode of American Horror Story and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. THAT IS THE PLAN, STAN, and we’re sticking with it. =)

Let’s start with home…

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-halloween2014jackolantern

We decided to go with a fake jack o’lantern this year.

 

Then to the Melonhead Foundation’s Drag Bingo charity bash!

 

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

 

I don’t exactly have coulrophobia (a pathological fear of clowns), but still…

 

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

 

And in our neighborhood, this house always catches my every-horror-tuned eye…

 

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of "The Amityville Horror" is going to be called "The Tempe Horror." It's the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of “The Amityville Horror” is going to be called “The Tempe Horror.” It’s the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

 

And for work today, I made this cake, a tradition I’ve done for Halloween potlucks for years:

 

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

 

 

Ronnie James approves.

Ronnie James approves.

 

Happy FRIDAY Halloween, Everyone!

STEP RIGHT UP to the new season of American Horror Story!

Heading into summer, I can feel my impatience gathering like sand in a dust devil as the new season of American Horror Story comes into focus. The near-future horizon of television is looking sharper, but not less dark… we can’t wait to see the latest iteration of creator Ryan Murphy and crew’s twisted anthology series. There have been three seasons thus far, each interpreting “dark and perverse” in its own unique, brilliant way.

First, we had Murder House.

Then, we had Asylum.

After that, it was Coven.

Now, this fall, we’re in for a….

 

american-horror-story-season-4-title-revealed

 

…which will take place at a spooky carnival in the 1950’s. You know that it’s going to set a new standard in the realm of terrifying clowns.

 

ahs-clown-2-wallpaper

 

This is going to be Jessica Lange’s last season, and rumor has it that she’s been practicing her German accent for it. Who’s excited? I AM.

Since we’re on the subject of evil clowns, here’s some Insane Clown Posse for your morning:

 

 

“The Great Milenko.” Yes.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Ryan Murphy were to use some of ICP’s music in his new season? The underrated band could finally get the wider audience they deserve with exposure in AHS: Freak Show. You don’t have to be a juggalo to enjoy ICP.

Happy Friday the 13th, All!

Thrashing around in the Throes

“Mr. Hammond, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.” (Jurassic Park)

What a great conclusion! What valleys of chaos traversed to reach it! (Hmm, if we were to return to our wilderness home in France, would we find T-Rex and Velociraptor tracks in our wake?) Humans seem to thrive on mayhem. What is it about disaster – especially violent disaster – that mesmerizes us?

“I wonder if robots will ever watch Terminator and figure out that they’re supposed to kill the humans,” Callaghan mused as we were eating our salad the other night. “Maybe it’s the movie that’s going to trigger everything!”

Indeed. When it comes to entertaining ourselves with disaster, it’s not enough for people to kill other people. Nature killing people isn’t enough, either. We need robots to kill us, too.

For me, it’s clowns… call me a traditionalist, or maybe just a person with a weak imagination. For those of you who were wondering, the incessant buzz over World War Z extinguished my preoccupation with zombies. Main-streaming the topic to that over-budgeted extent in a “summer action blockbuster” production finally killed it for me. (I enjoyed Zombieland, but even that was borderline. We did try to watch Warm Bodies recently, but we lost interest not even halfway through, and couldn’t finish it. When it comes to zombie movies, nothing does it for me like Shaun of the Dead.) World War Z might be a great movie, and I might really like it, but its making dethroned zombies from the top of my list of dark, fantastical obsessions. My horror sensibilities are stimulated most effectively in the more obscure tunnels of pop culture. Reading the hundredth little article on the production troubles of WWZ, I turned back to clowns with a perverse nod of respect and restored to them their hold on the freak-out center of my brain.

Clowns scare me because those colorfully diabolical characters embody the insane. Insanity means complexity, and the more complex something is, the more there is to fear. Clowns also tend to be smart, and that makes them terrifyingly unpredictable. Zombies are brainless and therefore completely predictable, engendering fear in the opposite way. (If we use this comparison as a political analogy, which would be the scarier party, then, the Clowns or the Zombies?)

Plus, clowns’ origins can be found in nature. This explains everything:

 

Am I right?

A Tale of Two Clowns

It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and with my birthday in between, we don’t differentiate between the celebrations. What’s the point? So we celebrate our way up to January 2nd. Social conditioning is a funny thing, though: Last night, Callaghan announced excitedly, “Tomorrow’s the weekend!” As if we haven’t been lying around doing nothing and going nowhere for five days straight.

The fun began on the 23rd, when we drove down to Nice.

We were on the highway, and I spent the whole time absorbed in Deep Thoughts. The lady in the back seat reminded me of the puppet clown in Saw. She didn’t exactly look like him, but the shape of her face with the position of her round and very pronounced cheekbones gave her enough of a resemblance that I couldn’t resist mentioning it to Callaghan. “Remember the clown in that Rob Zombie movie?” he asked, continuing on the theme, talking about the new generation of clowns. “Completely different from the traditional clowns that were made to look scary.” Our low-toned English couldn’t be heard over the highway noise. The lady and the guy next to her (19-20 years old, long dark hair, goatee) were talking, anyway, totally not paying attention to us. A few minutes later, Callaghan broke into their conversation to ask if they’d ever seen that movie, and lo! The guy unzipped his jacket to reveal a t-shirt featuring that very same obscure Rob Zombie clown! What are the odds? Of all the clowns in the world, I tell you.

France’s organized hitch-hiking system is awesome. You get online and announce where you’re going, and people can set themselves up to catch a ride with you. It’s profitable and fun, and you can end up with the Saw clown and the Rob Zombie clown sitting next to each other in the back seat of your rental car.

 

Saw clown

Saw clown

Rob Zombie clown

Rob Zombie clown