Fellow little leaguers Bobby and Kevin are opportunistically abducted in broad daylight. Bobby manages to MacGyver’s his way out of a locked car boot and has sweet freedom at his mercy. However, he refuses to leave his buddy behind and breaches the lair of a truly twisted entrepreneurial monster.
There is a fascinating moment in Fear Street Part Two 1978 where the audience becomes unequivocally aware that there is a perceived watershed surrounding the acceptability of on-screen child violence.
The moment of revelation comes when the camera suddenly cuts away from the massacre of younger kids after dwelling comfortably on the graphic mutilation of slightly older teenagers moments earlier.
If this example of art reflecting societal tolerance is to be believed then maybe you should think twice about entering the uber-dark world of The Boy Behind The Door. This unashamedly nasty little flick has no such snowflake sensibilities and even fewer regards for the accepted boundaries of mainstream children in peril flicks.
This ain’t no Home Alone in the woods, it really isn’t. Although, I more than suspect one of the main character names is a less than subtle case of cheeky trolling.
One more facet of fair warning, the movie’s central premise is genuinely repugnant. Whilst nothing is ever graphically depicted, it is served up with such detached casualness that it is certain to disturb even the most battle-hardened genre fan.
The two boys, played with admirable conviction by Lonnie Chavis and Ezra Dewey, are an authentic mixture of juvenile naivety and audacious resilience. Initially, Bobby does not fully comprehend what the chained-up Kevin’s exact fate could be. However, he has enough nous to know he may not stay alive long enough for him to raise the alarm and get help. What truly drives the movie is the raw courage he displays in attempting to liberate him instead.
Like John Hyams‘ superb Alone, The Boy Behind The Door is obsessed with the sharp consequences of finite decision-making during a fight for survival against a stronger foe. Every strategic line of attack and defence counts as Bobby strives to outwit his morally bankrupt enemy, struggling to match their base disregard for humanism.
As is mandatory for any micro-managed survival horror flick, you will spend a large chunk of the run time shouting sage advice at the characters and berating them for poor choices. In this case, it is prudent to consider that they are scared youngsters functioning on the outer fringes of life experience and emotional development. As such, this tense film is a remarkably adroit study in the art of self-preservation.
As our young hero suffers exponentially increasing savagery he too reluctantly ups the levels of ferocity needed to survive. Bearing witness to the psychological erosion of his own formative ideals in the face of extreme provocation is hard to watch, but intelligently executed.
Quite what The Boy Behind Door is saying about rampant consumerism and entitled gratification in modern America is never entirely divulged. Conversely, who it blames becomes crystal clear as the camera lingers salaciously on a MAGA bumper sticker.
If all this sounds a little exploitative, well, it is. However, the unsavoury themes and blood-soaked struggles are a means to a gripping end. A confidently composed and carefully crafted heart-stopper that reverse engineers the home invasion blueprint to deconstruct the modern abduction thriller.
No prizes for guessing there is also a spicy expectation mashing twist along the way. All too often these eye-rolling rug pulls can feel shoehorned and contrived, however, The Boy Behind The Door springs a spectacularly good one.
Ultimately, the film is desperate to leave you breathless, hanging on the edge of your seat rooting for our brave young protagonists. It gives no ethical fucks how it gets there, and to be honest, the toxic narrative does lead to some triumphant instances of empathetic air-punching through its noxious fumes.
Survival Thriller, Abduction Horror | USA, 202o | Cert: 18 | 88 min | Streaming on SHUDDER from 29th July 2020 | Dirs. David Charbonier and Justin Powell| With. Lonnie Chavis, Ezra Dewey, Micha Hauptman and Kristin Bauer van Straten