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  Boy, The Too Old To Play With Dolls
Year: 2016
Director: William Brent Bell
Stars: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson, Jett Klyne, Lily Pater, Matthew Walker, Stephanie Lemelin
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) has travelled to England from the United States to take up the position of nanny for a couple who live some way out of any cities in a rambling country house. She is taken there by taxi as she sleeps off her jetlag, and on arrival is greeted by... absolutely nobody, so has to explore the house on her own, taking off her shoes and creeping up the stairs because she thought she heard somebody up there. She alights upon the child's room, and is charmed by the toys she sees, until she is given the fright of her life by somebody entering and speaking to her. It's only the handyman Malcolm (Rupert Evans), and he reassures her all is well; but she has not met her charge yet.

Creepy dolls may not have taken the place of creepy clowns in the twenty-tens as a popular bogeyman, but they spoke to the same unease, that of an innocent bit of fun for children and their families that had somehow become irrevocably corrupted by evil intent, in pop culture often of a supernatural derivation. So when Greta meets the little boy she is meant to be looking after, and we see it is actually a boy-sized doll, our seasoned horror movie experiences tell us that alarm bells should be ringing, not just in our minds but in hers as well, just waiting for the moment the apparently inanimate object blinks, moves or speaks, in other words going full Chucky from the Child's Play series.

Whether the oddly-named Brahms (were the "parents" classical music fans or Are You Being Served? fans?) actually does spring to life is a question best resolved by watching the movie, for Stacey Menear's screenplay had a very neat twist to visit on the audience that was hinted at, and may even be picked up on if you recognised what the elderly couple who take care of the doll are really up to. Otherwise, it was best not to contemplate it too much because it was a very well handled surprise by director William Brent Bell, consciously harking back to old dark house horrors of decades past that had moved out of fashion thanks to a lot of parody that took what had become well-worn clich├ęs and made sport of them.

Greta has troubles of her own that perhaps she didn't need compounded by the fact she has to babysit a mannequin (or maybe not, it's got no strings, as Pinocchio would like to point out), and when the old husband (Jim Norton) and wife (Diana Hardcastle) give her a list of rules to abide by and essentially leave her to it so they can have their first holiday in some years, she wonders why she is bothering. Presumably the pay is decent, and she gets away from a stalker-y ex-boyfriend, but all she has to do once they return is tell them she stuck to the rules and they will be none the wiser, for all she has actually done is lounge about in a big, old house, sipping wine and reading - as in the best old dark house yarns, there is no internet or decent phone signal to allow an access to or from the outside world, claustrophobia must be an element.

However, here's where she starts getting creeped out, because every so often Greta notices that Brahms has moved of his own accord. Oh, we haven't seen him do it, and neither has she, but he does have a tendency to show up in places alternative to those where she was convinced she had left him, and that becomes more and more important as the story wears on, notably when she realises she can "play" with the doll by setting it down on the floor, leaving the room and returning a minute later to see that he is in a different position there. She delves into this family's past, and finds the account of the actual Brahms, a little boy who was killed in an accident, so she believes as we are supposed to that the kid's spirit is animating the doll and haunting the house. There was a strong theme of parental love being soured by events beyond their control, and the urge to do the best for your offspring even when times have become too testing to carry on, but more than that this was an amusing horror that eschewed the gore for a traditional, but far from hackneyed, scary tale. Music by Bear McCreary.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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