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Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020: The Boy Behind the Door

The Boy Behind the Door follows a boy who must rescue his best friend after he manages to escape the clutches of their kidnapper.

The Boy Behind the Door Review

The Boy Behind the Door manages to carry the emotional weight of its material and deliver on the intensity native to the horror/thriller format. While the plot brings with it some unique wrinkles to the kidnapping/cat-and-mouse structure, it still tends to sit within the realm of safe and/or familiar scenes. Thankfully, however familiar some of these scenes may be, the action is pure enough to thoroughly retain interest.

A great deal of that interest comes in the form of empathy for our leads. We desperately want to see these two boys survive and escape, and if some comeuppance falls upon the perpetrators along the way, all the better. The performances from the young actors are superb, giving realistic reactions to their circumstances that are rarely interrupted with unevenness akin to actors their age. Our antagonists carry the conscience-absent and vicious tenacity inherent in their roles, despite their inability at times to embrace some originality, due in part from a script that hops in and out of the common thriller tropes.

Every progressive scene in the film is scattered between originality, familiarity, and absurdity. The original moments are brought on by the two boys and their struggle, as they bring a unique dynamic to the genre. The familiar scenes subconsciously pull their inspiration from the countless cat-and-mouse survival thrillers that have preceded them. The absurd scenes are lightly sprinkled throughout the dark realism of the film, with just a few moments leaving you shaking your head at the impossibility. The well-paced amalgamation of these attributes makes for an engaging yet mildly flawed film that teeters between rewatchability with fresh-eyed friends and falling deep into the subconscious pool of good-not-great thrillers.

I can nitpick ten things that made me scoff, but I can far more easily nitpick ten things I loved. The disturbing premise is lightly balanced with the pure survival thriller elements that keep everything in perspective of the underlying message without unnecessarily turning the screw further than it needs to go. The setting is effective, as the sprawling home that sometimes feels like the estate overlooking the Bate's Motel leaves you as claustrophobic yet overwhelmed by its size as the boys trying to navigate it blindly. The music is unimpressive, but effective at carrying out its purpose of maintaining atmosphere throughout. The cinematography uses the tight angles dictated by the house as an advantage for delivering atmospheric and intense moments.

There are a few moments that hug too tightly to the tracks of thriller tropes. The monologuing of the villain, the predictable fodder, and the uncanny knack for the protagonists to be just a hair on the side of lucky every time. The luck is thankfully balanced with grit that comes with the instinct to live, but the film is also heartwarmingly catalyzed by the fact that the best friends just refuse to leave each other behind. It's a simple story, and sometimes simply told, but it also carries themes worthy of note and discussion in a package that is well-produced and acted.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 7/10

Horror Quality: 5/10 Film Quality: 7/10

#fantasticfest #theboybehindthedoor #theshining #psycho

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