Directed by David Charbonier & Justin Powell.
Starring Lonnie Chavis, Ezra Dewey, Kristin Bauer van Straten.
Thriller, US, 88 minutes.

Streaming on Shudder from 29th July 2021.


Co-directors and writers David Charbonier and Justin Powell bring to Shudder this streamlined and ruthlessly efficient kidnap thriller. Best friends Bobby and Kevin walk through sunlit fields daydreaming about getting away on their way to a little league baseball game. It is a destination that is never reached however as a faceless kidnapper bundles the pair into a car, taking them to a remote farmhouse. While Kevin is locked upstairs, Bobby manages to break free but his loyalty to his best friend forces him to stay in the vast house, evading their abductor while trying to free his friend in a race against time.


Children in peril is an old staple in horror fiction but THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR while not really bringing anything new to the field manages to grab the viewers attention with its slick, sometimes arresting direction and near relentless approach to its subject matter. At times it may feel like it edges close to bad taste territory or tasteless exploitation but manages to disturb without being explicit, knowing when to pull back. Maybe it was a case of lowered expectations on this reviewer’s part but surprise was registered at how much the kids here are put through the wringer both physically and emotionally. Viewers of a more sensitive or squeamish nature when children are under threat may want to stay well away. Even discounting this fact one scene, involving fingernail related injury, manages to be the most wince inducing scene seen in some time.


Charbonnier and Powell’s script is nicely streamlined, getting to the action quickly after its introductory scenes of character building while their direction is even more impressive. During its first half, largely free of dialogue, where Bobby explores his surroundings, tension is nicely created as he tries to evade his kidnapper who largely remains out of sight or is registered as a blurry figure in the distance. The photography and editing is top notch here, helping set the tension that only gains in intensity as the film swiftly moves along, especially when a couple of interesting wrinkles are added into the storyline to help further complicate matters.


As the two friends the young actors easily convince as lifelong friends but as Bobby, Lonnie Chavis does the real heavy lifting here, as he sneaks around the vast house. His shock and near disgust at the violence he commits to defend himself brings an extra dimension of fear to the film, completely forgoing the usual revenge through redemptive violence that would only mark this out as another typical low budget horror thriller interested in satisfying its audience in the easiest and most predictable way.


Whilst its subject matter may understandably be hard to face for some THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR is a solid exercise in pared down thrills that is still executed with a considerable level of style and conviction. Like a modern day take on a Brothers Grimm tale this tale of children facing off against great evil marks its filmmakers and main star as ones to keep an eye out for in the future.


Iain MacLeod.


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