Undead Hijinks in ‘The Loneliest Boy in the World’ [Review]

the loneliest boy in the world

The Loneliest Boy in the World is a Tollhouse Cookie assemblage of ooey-gooey terror. At once homage, 50s B-movie— I Was a Teenage Werewolf—and satirical uprooting of antiquated sitcom values refracted through a progressively undead lens. The Loneliest Boy in the World is a lot of things. Unfortunately, a good movie isn’t necessarily one of them.

From the hyper-stylized introduction, comic sensibilities, and ever-so-slight removal from reality, The Loneliest Boy in the World very clearly wants to be something akin to Edward Scissorhands or Pleasantville. It’s a milkshake and malt throwback that uses the iconography of yesterday to say something noteworthy about today. It rarely reaches such insights, at times violating its own internal ethos, sometimes within the same beat. It’s an uneven mix of gross-out gore and admittedly stellar effects. Its aesthetic only occasionally feels like its own, rather than something taken from a cinematic swap meet.

Oliver (Max Harwood) once lived a reclusive life with his mother. They bond over Alf, a recurring visual and thematic motif throughout. They even spend their time ambling in a cotton candy-colored yard, hues of saturated pinks and blues to give the impression of retro eccentricity. A Rube Goldberg series of events leaves his mother dead—impaled gruesomely on a garden gnome, no less—and Oliver briefly institutionalized. He’s released and off on his own, amid an impending deadline courtesy of social worker, Margot (Ashley Benson). If he doesn’t find a friend within a week’s time, she has no choice but to take him back.

Easier said than done, of course. Oliver is the target of awful remarks and insults, often accepting them with a giddy, sitcom wholesomeness—they’re just trying to make friends. Then, he goes full Pet Sematary to dig up the corpse of Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a local young man similarly killed in absurd circumstances. Mitch is just the start. Soon, the likes of Susanne (Susan Wokoma), Frank (Ben Miller), and Mel (Zenobia Williams) join his burgeoning undead family, coming to life one night while Oliver is asleep.

Piers Ashworth’s script never probes beyond the pastel superficiality. Everything is candy-colored, a conspicuous visual pallet to juxtapose against Oliver’s gruesome new family. Director Martin Owen’s work similarly never moves beyond functional. While what’s there works, it never develops a distinct identity of its own. Oliver learns pat lessons akin to the final moments of any given Alf episode he’s watching. He’s learning how to exist in a difficult, cruel world, finding the bubblegum vibrancy and goodwill underneath. Been there, unearthed that.

While the cast, especially Wokoma’s maternal figure and Tiffin’s zombie heartthrob Mitch, is uniformly excellent, and several notable licensed tracks add some necessary zest, The Loneliest Boy in the World too often feels like every other horror comedy in the world. It’s full of gross-out gags, moments of pathos, and an ever-escalating series of horror hijinks. It never surprises and feels about as lively as the dead goldfish whose image appears early in the film. The best conceptualization comes toward the climax. Oliver is assailed by two bullies in pantomimed Jason and Freddy Krueger masks. On account of copyright issues, they’re close enough, but not quite. The Loneliest Boy in the World postures as something you’ve seen before. For as sweet and wholesome as it aspires to be, it never feels or looks quite right.

  • The Loneliest Boy in the World


The Loneliest Boy in the World is a pastel zombie throwback of sitcom terror whose innate wholesomeness can’t compensate for the sense that these undead themes have walked a hundred times before.

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