Right to Bear Brahms
It’s Winter. Heavy snow barricades script-writer Stacey Menear inside her house. She pours a glass of red wine then embraces the warmth of an open fire as she struggles to find the hook of a new horror film.
Her story follows Greta (Lauran Cohen); an American who moves to a remote English village and takes a job as a nanny to a local family.
Menear knows that devil children are popular horror icons but then again… the only thing scarier than porcelain dolls are people with too much plastic surgery. Suddenly, it comes to her: “Let’s have a crazy child replaced by a spooky doll! Best of both worlds!”
To Greta’s surprise she will be caring for a doll named Brahms which strikes a resemblance to a real child of the same name who died many years ago.
OK, so I made up the bit about snow and wine but the choice to use both hooks is an inspired choice because Brahms is a freaky little fucker!
I don’t think the doll ever really changes yet Brahms appears to smile when something mischievous happens and sulks like a toddler when it is ignored or mistreated. The subtlety in anthropomorphism only adds to Brahms’ creepy persona.
It helps that Greta isn’t alone in her experiences because it adds an extra dynamic layer into the mix. Malcolm (Rupert Evans) is the local greengrocer and whilst a lot of his actions seem benevolent you can’t help but wonder how much he antagonises Brahms or if he is part of the problem.
The whole film is utterly creepy and un-nerving. It constantly plays with the viewer, suggesting that Brahms is haunted or alive or the boy is trapped inside the doll or maybe this is all in Greta’s head.
Although it is consistently ominous there are few genuinely scary moments. I can’t believe I’m saying this but a handful of extra jump scares would have served the film well and make it feel more balanced horror as a result.
What I found most weird though is when Greta finds out that doll isn’t quite what it seems she embraces the thing and treats it like her own child. I mean if you went to a posh restaurant and ordered an expensive steak only to find out it’s some sort of laxative inducing, BSE laden side of horse’s kneecap you wouldn’t just turn around and say “Oh that’s novel. Down the hatch!”. Instead Greta slips into Stockholm Syndrome faster than you can say Valhalla.
As with all horror films there has to be a reveal and The Boy’s was pleasantly surprising. Perhaps that’s the wrong word. It’s not quite what I was expecting but equally as harrowing as whatever my imagination dreamt up.
However, the reveal is also in parallel to events in Greta’s personal life coming to a head which either needed to be cut entirely or introduced earlier because this felt like a hollow addition in an attempt to add depth of character.
The Boy seems more carefully planned than most of the crap that infests the horror genre so deeply. It avoids many common and generic traits choosing instead to weigh on your psyche. This is at the detriment of scares but to the benefit of an unsettling story.
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ The reveal
+ Constantly you on edge
– Not as scary as you would hope
– Greta’s back story
– Stockholm Syndrome