There’s some rare, new talent in the horror/thriller genre. While reading Entertainment Weekly’s recent post about the creepiest kids in films, I grew curious about the mention of little Ted Henley in The Boy, a film I had not yet heard about. It’s a low budget film, directed and co-written by Craig William Macneil, and was just released last week in select theaters and on demand.
The Boy marks what is potentially the beginning of a planned trilogy that follows a young boy named Ted Henley (played by Jareed Breeze, holding his own in a commanding performance) as he progresses from age nine to thirteen to seventeen on his journey of self-discovery with his sociopathic tendencies. In The Boy, Ted is at the tender age of nine and is only dimly aware of his burdgeoning interests. They begin to emerge in part because he is lonely and as a child his mind’s imagination is open to so many possibilities. While his father, John (David Morse in a saddened, richly layered performance), tries to keep a failing roadside motel open, Ted is left to his own devices, roaming freely among the motel grounds and beyond, catching roadkill to earn a quarter, tracking his earnings in a ledger as if he runs the motel and watching and waiting. Waiting for what becomes clearer throughout the film as events unfold around him.
John, however, has basically checked out in the wake of his wife leaving him for one of the motel customers, giving you a sense of how bad the marriage must have been. We are told very little else regarding Ted’s mother other than she now lives in Florida and I suspect her story is purposefully left out to be dealt with in a later film. In the meantime, acutely aware of each other but uncertain of the dynamics of their relationship, Ted and John tiptoe around one another, one ready to give up while the other is eager to explore.
The arrival of traveler William Colby (Rainn Wilson), who might harbor a secret regarding the death of his wife, sets in motion a shift in their lives as Ted’s attachment to Colby provides him a fatherly figure he seems to crave, thereby making John jealous due to his own lack of attention towards Ted. He does realize in some way he no longer has any strength or emotion left to give him. Ted befriends, or tries to befriend, the other (and too few) customers who do stay at the motel. Yet his father continuously warns him to leave the customers alone pushing Ted further away because he simply can’t accept this concept – partly because he seeks human connection, but also because simmering underneath the surface is his innate desire to harm. As Ted’s true nature is revealed the tension builds until Ted finally unleashes his lethal desires in the film’s incendiary ending and we are left face to face with a young monster.
The Boy is a slow film, but it’s not a film to be ignored. Crafted with a perfect blend of excellent filmmaking and storytelling, it introduces us to the world of an emerging sociopath and a unique horror film. Through its entirety Ted waits, watches, learns and enacts when he’s finally ready as we become an unwilling witness to his gradual transformation . But even by the end of the film, we are left craving more, filled with unanswered questions and wondering what happens next. We can only hope those answers come soon in the next two films.
It’s a stunning film, unnerving and altogether beautiful, lensed with long shots and wide landscaped backgrounds that highlight the lonesome nature of Ted’s world. It’s also filled with dedicated actors who add dimensions to their characters and the narrative of the film as a whole. There is a lack of gratuitous violence, which is much appreciated as the filmmakers choose to focus wholly on Ted’s self discovery, relying on human drama and tension as the driving forces of the film. The Boy certainly has the right elements to make it a classic in the likes of Psycho, Carrie or even The Shining.
As mentioned earlier, The Boy introduced me to new talents who I’m especially excited about. The film itself is a feature length expansion of Craig William Macneil’s orignal short Henley, also based on a chapter in the novel Miss Corpus, written by Clay Mcleod Chapman, who co-wrote the script for the film. I ordered a copy of Miss Corpus and I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival so I can delve deeper into Ted’s tale and treat myself to Chapman’s energy and storytelling power. I’m also anxiously awaiting what hopefully will be the next two films in the potential Ted Henley trilogy.