Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Boy Behind the Door, on Shudder

When you think about it, the premise of Home Alone—an elementary school aged kid cheerfully fighting off home invaders—should have been pretty traumatic. This film is a lot more emotionally realistic. The bad guys are part of a pedophile-abduction ring rather than mere burglars, but at least the two captives can rely on each other throughout David Charbonier & Justin Powell’s The Boy Behind the Door, which premieres this Thursday on Shudder.

Both Kevin and Bobby were snatched out of the park, but the former was the primary intended victim. The latter is just left in the trunk to suffocate, but instead, he fights his way out. However, when Bobby hears his friend’s terrified screams for help, he knows he cannot leave the boy behind. Sneaking into the isolated house, he discovers Kevin is chained to the wall behind a locked door. The cat-and-mouse game that ensues is viscerally intense, due to the disturbingly young age of the boys, but their resourcefulness is admirable.

Young protags in claustrophobic jeopardy are definitely a thing for Charbonier & Powell, the filmmaking tandem, whose
Djinn released earlier in the year. There are obvious similarities, but Behind is far more disturbing due to its thematic content. In this case, the utter conviction and total credibility of Lonnie Chavis and Ezra Dewey (who also starred in Djinn) keep viewers hooked on pins and needles. Like Djinn (but maybe even more so here), the filmmakers and their youthful cast really force the audience to care. During this film, the suspense really kills.

The boys’ ultimate antagonist is also extraordinarily creepy, but it would be a bit spoilerish to call out the thesp by name. Let’s just say this is a deeply chilling predator. Charbonier & Powell have a sinister talent for maintaining tension and suspense, while turning the limitations of their confined sets into positives. It is almost too much at times, but it is all highly effective.

We generally have contempt for the term “triggering,” but this really is a film that might hit too close to home for any families that have endured similar trauma. Frankly, this film pushes the envelope of exploitation, but it also has a crystal-clear sense of right and wrong. Indeed, virtues are not liabilities in this film.

Admittedly, there are times
Behind will have viewers pulling out their hair and yelling things like “hit that creep again.” The boys’ decision-making can be frustrating, but that is the effect panic often has. The more important point is that viewers will care so intently. Recommended for horror fans who can handle the children-in-jeopardy content, The Boy Behind the Wall starts streaming Thursday (7/29) on Shudder.