Cinema Review: The Boy | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, December 5th, 2020  

The Boy

Studio: Chiller
Directed by Craig William Macneill

Aug 18, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Ted Henley is a lonely nine-year-old boy growing up at the floundering, middle-of-nowhere, side-of-the-road motel his family has owned for three generations. It’s a dying business, manned solely by him and his father since Ted’s mother skipped town with a trucker a few years ago. In between his fruitless chores, Ted busies himself by collecting roadkill. A budding psychopath, he isn’t content to sit by the side of the road, hoping a passing vehicle flattens a frightened creature. Rather, Ted sets traps and lays in wait, dumping garbage and feed into the center of the highway, hoping to catch sight of an animal’s last moments. Ted scores the biggest kill of his burgeoning partnership with death when he lures a deer into oncoming traffic, forcing the car’s enigmatic driver, William (Rainn Wilson), to stay at the hotel as his car gets fixed. William has his own hidden history with death, however, and unwittingly opens Ted’s eyes to levels of darkness previously unknown to the young boy.

The Boy is an ambitious first installment in a planned trilogy about the early years of a prolific, infamous, fictionalized American serial killer. Co-written by director Craig William Macneill and playwright/novelist Clay McLeod Chapman (and based on characters that first appeared in “The Henley Road Motel” chapter of his novel, Miss Corpus), it is an expansion of the duo’s 2011 short film, Henley, which was nominated for the 2012 Short Film Jury Prize in fiction at the Sundance Film Festival. Given the nature of the film as Ted’s origin story (later installments are set to revisit Ted at ages 14 and 18), it doesn’t concern itself with rushing when setting up the character or his world. Both a good thing and a detriment, Macneill’s pacing lends tension to the film, as we wait for Ted to perpetrate his heinous acts, yet it also sacrifices some of that suspense by taking such sweet time with everything.

Relative newcomer Jared Breeze is creepily believable as Ted. The young actor perfectly melds Ted’s penchant for fixed-gazed observation with his less frequent, yet altogether terrifying actions, into a child who is sure to scare any parent or future parent. We fully believe that this boy can—and very likely will—grow up to cause harm and trauma to the world, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to see it happen a little faster. In Ted, Chapman and Macneill have a truly chilling character whose evolution will be both fascinating and frightening to watch unfold over the course of two additional films, especially if they step up the pace slightly and rely on lingering shots and intentional silences a little less devoutly than they do in The Boy.

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Author rating: 6/10

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