Starring Jared Breeze, David Morse, Rainn Wilson
Directed by Craig Macneill
Craig Macneill’s desperate drama The Boy feels almost like an origin story about the next generation of Norman Bates, gradually succumbing to bursts of madness birthed out of complete boredom and total isolation. The focus on one deteriorating family running a dilapidated motel in Nowhere, U.S.A., is quietly effective even if the events in the film sometimes putter along just like the drab daily lives of the aging father and troubled kid at the center of the narrative.
Set in 1988, John (David Morse) is a second generation hotel manager trying to keep little Ted Henley (Jared Breeze) in line and stay focused on daily chores that grow even more monotonous because of their pointless routine. Ted lets out a scream at the beginning of The Boy when tasked with cleaning all the rooms (even though no one has slept in them), and it’s a moment that immediately tells you everything you need to know about this kid: He’s alone, he’s dangerously bored, and his endless day-to-day routine is really starting to get to him. Suddenly, a mysterious passerby (Rainn Wilson) crashes on the desolate highway of the motel, beginning a lengthy stay where he recovers and waits to get his car out of the shop.
Even with some new entertainment in the form of a customer, Ted begins to show signs of breaking, acting out violently where no one can see him. He has no real connection to the outside world and even though his father tries to be there for him, it’s the abandonment by his mother that eats away at him. Leaving the place more so than the boy, Ted also dreams of somehow getting out of his situation – and Rainn Wilson’s character might just offer a way out.
The Boy almost seems to relish in its do-nothing aesthetic, highlighting the decrepity of the motel against an incredible vista that used to be a tourist attraction. Now, it exists only as a reminder of something greater, mocking them with its quiet awesomeness. Produced by Elijah Wood’s Spectrevision, The Boy is supposed to be the beginning of a trilogy following the birth of a serial killer through three films. This is just the sort of concept that Spectrevision should attempt to fully realize, and once the other films come into play, The Boy as part of a whole should become a lot more interesting.
The slow start (and maybe a little of the middle) does pay off, however, with a conclusion that’s shocking even after seeing what Ted’s already been up to. He’s a bad apple; you just have to wait until the end to see how rotten he really is.