While Netflix recently has invest a little more in horror, Shudder has consistently taken care of genre fans. During the pandemic, as major studios held back major title, Shudder has platformed some pretty diverse horror offerings. Now Shudder’s latest release crosses into territory many mainstream horror movies avoid – putting children in direct danger. From the same writing a duo behind The Djinn, The Boy Behind the Door looks to turn real-life nightmares into a suspenseful thriller that reverse the home invasion setup. With a decent sampling of glowing reviews behind it, The Boy Behind the Door looks like another 2021 winner for Shudder.
While walking home from baseball practice, best friends Bobby and Kevin are abducted by an unseen predator. Their abductor takes Kevin from the trunk and leaves Bobby trapped inside. But Bobby escapes and finds himself alone outside a small farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Knowing his best friend is locked behind a door inside the house. Bobby refuses to run and instead stays to save Kevin.
The Boy Behind the Door Maximizes Suspense From Simple Premise
Oftentimes the simplest premise makes for the best movie. Here, writer and directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell (The Djinn) craft a pretty straightforward story. And the filmmakers waste little time setting things in motion and putting their characters in danger. What follows is a consistently suspenseful thriller that boasts several white-knuckle moments. Somewhat surprisingly, The Boy Behind the Door manages to avoid feeling exploitative in spite of its subject matter. As they drop us into the shadowy house alongside Bobby, Charbonier and Powell exploit a few simple tricks to heighten tension. A surprise death and a ticking watch timer ensures momentum persists. With each obstacle Bobby overcomes, The Boy Behind the Door introduces another one to take its place.
And the filmmakers waste little time setting things in motion and putting their characters in danger.
But this is also where The Boy Behind the Door runs into some problems. Much of the story necessitates poor character decisions to move things along. By the movie’s third act, Charbonier and Powell repeat the same character mistake in order to string out the danger a little longer. Simply put, there’s not quite enough here to quite sustain what’s still a pretty short runtime. Like everything else in the movie, however, the directors mostly make it work, squeezing out maximum tension. Still it doesn’t entirely compensate for the repetitive feeling that grows. And The Boy Behind the Door eventually shifts into slasher movie territory in its climax. Though it’s not totally out of step with what’s proceeded it, there’s no denying it feel out of place.
Believable Performances and a Strong Emotional Core Overcome Minor Quibbles
Much of The Boy Behind the Door’s success at sustaining suspense can also be chalked up to its young protagonists. Though Carbonier and Powell waste little time kicking the story into gear, they wisely invest some time in establishing the boys’ close friendship. As a result, it’s completely believable that Bobby would refuse to leave his friend behind. Most importantly, it’s this friendship that gives The Boy Behind the Door more emotional weight than what you’d normally find in this sort of movie. Since we care about these characters every dangerous moment elicits tension even if the plot is sometimes convoluted.
Though Carbonier and Powell waste little time kicking the story into gear, they wisely invest some time in establishing the boys’ close friendship.
Both child actors lend a big assist to this story focus with strong performances. If child actors can be hit or miss, there are no problems to be found in The Boy Behind the Door. Television fans should recognize This Is Us’ Lonnie Chavis who, as Bobby, carries much of the movie’s heavy lifting. At no doubt will you doubt that Chavis faces serious harm as he aptly channels desperation and fear. One scene where Chavis cries while looking at photos of past victims is heartbreaking. And The Djinn’s Ezra Dewey is equally convincing even with a little less screen time. While her villain isn’t as groundbreaking as the story would like to imagine, Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood) carries the requisite amount of menace.
The Boy Behind The Door Continues a Strong Year For Shudder
Maybe The Boy Behind the Door occasionally relies too much on poor character decisions to sustain suspense. And yes, its final act enters familiar slasher territory. In part, this likely reflects the movie’s barebones premise. Even at a trim 88 minutes, the barebones thriller over-extends its premise. But The Boy Behind the Door also delivers pretty consistent edge-of-your-seat tension. Remarkably, Charbonier and Powell also avoid letting their movie slide into sleazy exploitation. Instead, the filmmakers invest in their central characters’ friendship, which in turn increases your emotional investment. In spite of some plot contrivances, The Boy Behind the Door marks another strong release from Shudder in 2021.