The streaming service Shudder has brought another of their movies to home release, giving those who don’t subscribe to their horror themed channel the chance to catch one of their more popular original movies. This time it’s the turn of 2020’s The Boy Behind the Door, which sees two young friends living through a nightmare when they get kidnapped.
The story begins in happier times, showing our two protagonists, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey), walking through the countryside on their way home from their baseball game. The two young kids talk about their friendship, how much they mean to each other, and how they’ll be ‘friends to the end’. Unfortunately, their nice day comes to a crashing halt when Kevin vanishes. As Bobby searches for him, someone grabs him from behind and everything goes dark.
Bobby wakes several hours later, bound and gagged in a crate in the back of a truck. Managing to free himself, Bobby is about to make a break for freedom when he hears Kevin screaming for help from inside the large building nearby. Unable to leave his friend behind, Bobby enters the house, and begins a deadly game of cat and mouse with the people who took the two of them.
The set-up for The Boy Behind the Door is an absolutely chilling one. This isn’t a horror film that relies on the supernatural or the unknown to frighten its audience. There are no ghosts or ghouls or demons waiting to jump out of the shadows; instead, the film is a very realistic nightmare, a scenario that every parent fears to some degree or another. And I think that parents are going to be the ones most frightened and disturbed by this movie, as they imagine their own Kevins and Bobbys being snatched away by evil people. It’s one of the most primal fears a lot of people have, and the film capitalises on this.
That being said, we don’t have a huge amount of time to really be frightened during The Boy Behind the Door, as Bobby goes from frightened kid to a determined child desperate to save his friend pretty quickly. Whilst both of the young actors get a chance to shine in this movie, it’s really Lonnie Chavis who gets the most screen time, the hardest scenes, and the best material to work with. We see him desperately hiding from his kidnappers, fighting back against them, overcoming his fears, and grappling with the realisation and the guilt that he’s hurt people. He goes through a huge range of emotions over the course of the movie, and Chavis plays them all so incredibly well. His performance would have been impressive coming from any actor, but from a child of just twelve it’s all the more astonishing.
The film doesn’t just star these two great child actors, however, and also features Kristin Bauer van Straten in the role of the lead kidnapper. Of the two people who take the young boys she’s the one who gets the most screen time, and as such she becomes the face of this very real evil. I love the fact that the film acknowledges that the image of the frightening man taking your children away isn’t always the correct one, and that women can also be abusers. It’s a nice little twist on what many other films in a similar vein do, and she brings a level of skin-crawling creepiness to the role that a male actor just wouldn’t. She comes across as so unrelentingly evil, so happy in the awful things that she does, that you never once feel sympathy for the awful things that come her way, and may even begin cheering when Bobby manages to inflict some wounds against her.
The two directors, David Charbonier and Justin Powell, who also wrote the film, do a good job at keeping the viewer interested during the long, quiet scenes towards the start of the film. We spend a good portion of the early part of the movie following Bobby as he sneaks through this house, and the use of long hallways, shadowed spaces, and lingering shots makes the audience feel uncomfortable as we wait for something terrible to happen. Once things ramp up, Charbonier and Powell manage to keep things feeling tense as the film shifts from a slow creep to a desperate race to survive.
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The one area where this new Blu-ray release is let down is in the extras. The film comes with a music video and a series of bloopers, and that’s it. The music video is barely more than a minute in length, and feels more like a dialogue-free trailer more than anything else, and the bloopers are incredibly dull. There aren’t really any ‘funny’ moments in them, and most of it is actors sneezing, messing up their lines, or moving in the scene incorrectly. Watching through both extras felt incredibly dull, though thankfully they’re both very short. If you’re picking up this set hoping to see some behind the scenes making-of stuff, or were hoping to watch through with an informative commentary, this is not the release for you.
The Boy Behind the Door is a horror film that will frighten a lot of people, but especially parents of younger children who have probably imagined a similar nightmare scenario for their own kids. The movie uses a very real, very well founded fear to drive the horror forward, and thanks to some stand-out performances by the main cast, manages to be engaging and effective throughout. Sadly, thanks to a lack of any real extras of any note on the new release, the film is slightly let down.
The Boy Behind the Door is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 2nd May from Acorn Media.