Most people know the common traits seen in serial killers- whether it be abuse (psychological, sexual), bed-wetting, growing up lonely and isolated, or animal cruelty- there are a number of collective factors that manifest in Ted. Loneliness can be poisonous. Humans, much like pack animals, are social creatures and need to be around others to cultivate growth. Ted’s isolated environment with a father who has a drinking problem and financial issues, causes Ted to look outwardly for stimulation. This unhealthy setting (there is even a junkyard to give you a Making a Murderer vibe) coupled with Ted’s innate dark cravings gives a nod to the classic nature versus nurture debate. It is a question of fate. Ted’s fascination with dead things reminds me of one of the short stories in the deeply disturbing anthology film, Morris County, and I am fascinated by his fascination. Boys will be boys, or in this case, killers will be killers.
Ted is acutely aware of the world around him; it is hard for anything to pass his inquisitive eyes. He likes to experiment with animals (of which there is a plethora in this vast landscape), though there is nothing too boundary pushing here as far as animal kills- certainly nothing as extreme as the live animal kills in Cannibal Holocaust, Ebola Syndrome, or Nekromantik. The purpose of these video nasties is to shock, while The Boy aims to show a bleak, yet authentic, piece of filmmaking, capturing the ordinary and mundane moments of what could be a future killer. It feels very realistic in this sense.
Kids can be annoying in horror films, especially if they are the main focus like in Sinister 2 (which I thought was down-right terrible), but Jared Breeze who plays young Ted never overacts or feels false. It is a big year for Breeze with his role in The Boy and Cooties, which I have yet to see. The film also features David Morse (from Horns, World War Z, The Green Mile, Disturbia, Dancer in the Dark) playing Ted’s father and Rainn Wilson (from The Office, Cooties) playing a patron of the motel.
Even though The Boy is essentially about loneliness and the everyday monotony, it never feels slow. The pace is convincing and concise, remaining captivating from beginning to end. Some may find it slow, but it culminates into something entirely frightening. This is not overt or ‘in-your-face’ horror; the subtle nuances throughout the film slowly reveal a restrained and haunting portrait of a bad seed with an ending that is gloomier than you could ever imagine.
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