The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR

the boy behind the door review
Two young boys become trapped in the home of their abductor.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Charbonier, Justin Powell

Starring: Lonnie Chavis, Ezra Dewey, Kristin Bauer Van Straten, Scott Michael Foster, Micah Hauptman

the boy behind the door poster

Following their recent impressive debut The Djinn, writer/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell return with The Boy Behind the Door. Like their debut, it's another confined thriller that sees a young boy battling evil inside a house. This time the evil hasn't been summoned from some other dimension, but rather it's of the very human variety.

the boy behind the door review

12-year-old buddies Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (The Djinn's young lead Ezra Dewey) are on their way to a Little League game when they're abducted by an unseen assailant. Hours later Bobby wakes up in the trunk of a car, which he manages to break free from. Making a dash for freedom, Bobby hears the cries of Kevin coming from inside a house. Rather than leaving his best bud to who knows what form of hardship, Bobby turns back, enters the house and sets about freeing his friend, who is locked inside an upstairs room.

What follows is initially similar in setup to The Djinn, with a young boy skulking around a house trying to evade an antagonist. As it progresses it becomes something of a mini Die Hard, with Bobby taking on the role of a pint-sized John McClane as he turns the tables on his adult enemies. It could be compared to a thriller riff on Home Alone, but of course that movie was just a family friendly version of the French thriller 3615 Code Pere Noel, in which a resourceful young boy battles a home invader dressed as Santa Claus.

the boy behind the door review

Bobby is similarly resourceful, which is crucial in elevating the film beyond icky exploitation. Putting young kids in peril in horror movies often can easily come off as distasteful. Yet despite various physical wounds inflicted on our two young heroes, The Boy Behind the Door never uses Booby and Kevin as punching bags. This isn't torture porn, rather it's the tale of a resourceful child fighting back against an adult foe.

What's refreshing about The Boy Behind the Door is how it reverses the gender dynamics of most horror movies. Here we get a "final boy" and a female antagonist. Like the best final girls, Bobby's resourcefulness is balanced with vulnerability, allowing us to both fear for his safety and applaud his ingenuity. Chavis is as impressive in the lead role here as his co-star Dewey was in The Djinn. Charbonier and Powell make great use of the expressive nature of children's faces, and I can't help but think of their two movies to date as horror appropriations of Little Rascals shorts. There's an element of Tom & Jerry in how the directors keep the camera at the level of their young leads, with Kristin Bauer van Straten's villainess only shown from the knees down for a large chunk of the film.

the boy behind the door review

As the tables begin to turn and Bobby and Kevin turn to violence themselves, the movie adopts the feel of the great 1970s grindhouse thrillers in which mild-mannered folk were forced to turn homicidal to save their skins. There's something wonderfully transgressive about how Charbonier and Powell have their leads clad in a symbol of American innocence - the Little League baseball kit. With an ambiguous absence of modern technology, The Boy Behind the Door has a timeless quality. The film is dated however by the presence of a "Make America Great Again" bumper sticker. Based on their first two movies, Charbonier and Powell seem intent on making American genre filmmaking great again.

The Boy Behind the Door is on Shudder now.

2021 movie reviews