Dirs: David Charbonnier & Justin Power (15, 88 mins)
A claustrophobic thriller that strains credulity but is helped by a great performance by its central pair of child leads, The Boy Behind The Door is a darkly uncomfortable, sparse chiller. Captured and bundled into the trunk of car, best friends Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey) find themselves trapped in a remote house. Bobby escapes only to discover that his friend is being held captive in a locked room, so he sets about trying to free him. A tense – if occasionally rather far-fetched and geography-defying – game of cat and mouse ensues, as Bobby’s plucky youngster searches for a way to help his friend escape whilst their captors also prowl the house.
Chavis is superb as the youngster forced to make hard choices and use his ingenuity, overcoming one obstacle only to encounter another. He and co-star Dewey give raw, emotional performances, the kids going to extremes under Charbonnier and Power’s direction. There are some wince-inducing moments as fingernails are pulled off, fingers amputated, axes wielded and electric shocks administered as the stakes increase. The captors Micah Hauptman and Kristen Bauer van Straten are sketchily drawn, but this is a grim tale of Stephen King-esque young friendship against apparently insurmountable odds.
The tension does wane at times, and there is the occasional lapse into histrionic absurdity (especially from the child-catching baddies, making them less of a chilling threat), while horror movie tropes are more obviously obeyed – but the committed performances of the two kids propel the action along, maintaining the stakes where possible. Atmospherically shot, drenched in blues, writer/director team Charbonnier and Power make an assured debut – their followup The Djinn, concerning a mute boy trapped in a house with a malevolent spirit, is already shot. Pared back, mostly wordless, The Boy Behind The Door mostly works as a satisfying, economic claustrophobic thriller with great young leads and a gritty realism not normally seen inflicted on the resilient youngsters.
Streaming via Shudder from Thurs 29 July
words KEIRON SELF
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