Review by Sean Boelman
On paper, a throwback, return-to-basics horror-thriller with two talented young stars sounds like it should be a hit. But unfortunately for David Charbonier and Justin Powell, the success of their feature debut The Boy Behind the Door stops with its premise, as it is an astoundingly dumb movie lacking in artistic or narrative creativity.
The film follows a young boy who is kidnapped along with his best friend as they find themselves in over their heads when trying to escape their captors. At its core, the movie is little more than a game of cat-and-mouse, but the script attempts to shift the dynamic so often that it soon becomes exhausting.
Even though the film clocks in at less than ninety minutes, it feels like so much more because it is so frustrating. Charbonier and Powell think that they are increasing excitement by changing the location or introducing what is supposed to be a twist, but many of these narrative tricks are executed too embarrassingly to cause any suspense.
Obviously, the characters are sympathetic because they are kids who have been kidnapped and tortured, but the viewer’s patience is going to wear thin because of their increasingly annoying actions. And as for the antagonists, they are painfully generic apart from a spin on the trope that is disappointingly sexist.
It’s nothing new for horror movies to feature characters that don’t act with much logic, but the level to which these characters lack common sense is the most startling part of the film. And while there are jokes to be made about them not understanding “old” technology like a corded phone or a stick shift car, one would think that they would at least have asked questions.
What makes this movie so disappointing, though, is that the two young are legitimately talented. Lonnie Chavis and Ezra Dewey do their best with the material they are given, but all the charm in the world couldn’t save these characters from being obnoxious. The film is also missing a strong presence in the villain.
Additionally, the visual style doesn’t exhibit much creativity. Filmmakers need to get the memo to stop mimicking the “Here’s Johnny!” scene from The Shining. It’s been done so many times before, and way more effectively than this, which causes it to be cringe-worthy. The general aesthetic is also disappointingly generic.
The Boy Behind the Door is one of the most lackluster genre movies of the year. Hopefully the young actors get another chance in the spotlight, because this unoriginal thriller isn’t going to do them any favors.
The Boy Behind the Door screened at the 2020 AFI FEST which runs virtually October 15-22.