(US/China - 2016)
Directed by William Brent Bell. Written by Stacey Menear. Cast: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, James Russell, Ben Robson, Matthew Walker. (PG-13, 97 mins)
I'm a sucker for a good creepy doll movie, and after the unwatchable ANNABELLE, THE BOY appeared to be a welcome throwback that relied more on atmosphere and mood than jump scares and subpar CGI. Hope was deflated significantly upon learning THE BOY was directed by William Brent Bell, whose previous films include the idiotic gamers-killed-by-video-game dud STAY ALIVE (2006), featuring a legitimate contender for the most annoying snarky movie line ever ("Sweet Sebastian Bach, I wanna play!"), and the rock-bottom, found-footage EXORCIST knockoff THE DEVIL INSIDE (2012). STAY ALIVE was merely stupid, but THE DEVIL INSIDE was the cinematic equivalent of a Nigerian prince e-mail, a loathsome scam of a film whose boundless contempt for its audience was so off-the-charts that it just stopped abruptly with no ending, with a middle finger of an end crawl sending moviegoers to a web site "for more on the ongoing investigation." Despite toxic word-of-mouth, THE DEVIL INSIDE somehow managed to sucker audiences out of $53 million despite a 76% freefall in its second weekend. Still, both STAY ALIVE and THE DEVIL INSIDE probably scored well enough on the horror fanboy's overly generous "Everything is Awesome!" curve that Bell likely got himself a lifetime "Master of Horror" pass. Against all odds and any rational logic, William Brent Bell is still considered employable, and though I love a creepy doll movie as much as anyone, the biggest concern going in was "How badly is Bell going to fuck this up?"