Since the release and warm reception of both V/H/S and The ABCs of Death in 2012, there have been a proliferation* of anthology-style horror films, more than a few of them sequels to the aforementioned titles. Despite an almost overabundance in those 5 short years, there’s been no real lack of creativity when it comes to theme for these films: the V/H/S series focused on our favorite nostalgic medium, ABCs were alphabetical bursts of horror, and from there Tales of Halloween took place on the spookiest of nights, Southbound dealt with a hellish highway, and Holidays bloodied up some of the most recognizable calendar dates. Continue reading “XX” (2017) REVIEW
There’s no denying it: horror anthologies are hot right now. The format has always been a popular go-to for the horror genre, but by the late-’90s it sort of fizzled out. Enter Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat in 2007 – a Halloween anthology, naturally – and boom, the sub-genre was revitalized. Since then there’s been Chillerama (utilizing horror’s goofiest gorehound directors), the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death franchises, and even a few T.V. shows like Darknet and Black Mirror. More recently there’s been Tales of Halloween, and soon the upcoming Holidays. There’s also been a slew of lesser watched stuff that I didn’t mention, but trust me when I say: anthology-style horror is hot. (more)
As 2015 comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to look back and share what I thought were the standout films of the year. The criteria for making the list was simple — I had to give it 3.5 stars or more on my Letterboxd account. Oh by the way: I have a Letterboxd account where I keep track of every movie I watch; there were many films I watched in 2015 that didn’t make the list, and you can find them (and all the others) over on my Letterboxd account. Did I mention I have a Letterboxd account yet? Continue reading My Obligatory “Best of 2015” List!
I went into The Boy not really knowing much about it. I saw the title on iTunes and remembered seeing a trailer for it awhile back, and recalled really digging the creepy, ominous atmosphere it had created in two minutes, and it had always been on my radar since then. I think going into it this way really added to the overall sense of dread I felt while watching it. Not knowing where the film is going — trying to figure out what’s going to happen before it does — makes for a much more tense viewing.
The Boy centers mainly around a father and his son running a floundering, decrepit motel smack in the middle of a rural, mountainous landscape. Naturally, the hyper-inquisitive boy is bored of his surroundings and fascinated with the rare guest that might happen to stop for the night. But there’s something else to the boy, something off. Something growing beneath the surface. As the film progresses, you start to think perhaps this is more than just a precocious youth we’re watching. I won’t give away much more, because again, the less you know the better. (One thing I found incredibly, incredibly strange about the production end of this movie: according to the credits, Floyd Mayweather Jr. — yes, the boxer — is a co-executive producer. Weird, right?)
There are two things that really sell the movie. First, the location, including the rundown motel. As I watched, I kept trying to figure out where they could’ve possibly found such a ratty, unkempt motel in the middle of nowhere like that. Georgia? Tennessee? After doing a little research I discovered (to my utter surprise) that the motel was actually built for the movie in the mountains of Medellín, Colombia! For those unaware, this was where Pablo Escobar ran his drug cartel, and was once the most violent city in the world. It’s a surprising little factoid to say the least, but the set design and locations are flawless. The whole area looks and feels like sad, destitute Appalachia.
The other thing that makes this movie work so well is the cast. It’s a small cast, consisting primarily of three characters. When you don’t have a lot of actors to distract and fill up scenery, you better make sure the actors you do cast can carry the film, and the actors here do a stand-out job.
The defeated father is played by the perpetually sad-faced David Morse, and I can’t think of a better actor for the role. The way he just sighs and slouches from scene to scene really sells the utter hopelessness of their situation. Then there’s the mysterious traveler played by Rainn Wilson. He, too, is a smart casting choice. He’s able to play warm and friendly just as well as straight-faced and untrustworthy. And last but not least, there is Jared Breeze who plays the title role. He is easily the best part of the movie. This is his movie. Kid actors are a tough sell, especially if they play a main part in the movie. They can’t all be Danielle Harris and Tye Sheridan. More often than not, you’re gonna get the Jaden Smith and Chandler Riggs pedigree, or that kid from Jurassic Park who compares Velociraptors to turkeys. They act like they’re acting, but rarely do they convey a believable performance. (This is no dig on child actors; when I was a kid I was barely able to make myself lunch.) If you’re able to snag a believable kid for your movie, consider yourself lucky.
The reason Breeze is so amazing (as ‘Ted’) is that he doesn’t even act like the camera is there. I understand that’s the first rule of acting (unless you’re in a John Landis movie), but he’s so damn natural that watching the film makes you feel like you’re spying on some mountain child. As he wanders along the highway, explores the nooks and crannies of the wilderness, and talks to himself while imagining he’s miles way, you forget you’re watching a kid acting. So keep up the awesome work, Jared.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the score. It’s sparse, plunking, jangling, and jarring — and it’s perfect in the movie. At times it reminded me of the scores from The Shining and There Will Be Blood. In a way, this film is kind of like a hillbilly version of The Shining, only instead of Jack Torrance being the antagonist, it’s little Danny Torrance.
The Boy is far scarier, more chilling, and more realistic than any other dangerous kid movies that come to mind. And according to director Craig William Macneill, it’s only the first part of a planned trilogy. So it looks like we’ll be able to spend more time with Ted to see where life takes him.