AFI FEST 2020: The Boy Behind the Door Review – Leave No Boy Behind

The Boy Behind the Door - Lonnie Chavis

The less known about The Boy Behind the Door going in, the better it is for you. The film is an anxiety-fueled, wild spin on the home invasion genre. The Boy Behind the Door follows two kids, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and his best friend Kevin (Ezra Dewey), who gets kidnapped and taken to a house in the middle of nowhere. After Bobby escapes from the trunk of the kidnapper’s car, he hears the screams of his best friend coming from the kidnapper’s house. Now, Bobby must find a way into the house and free his best friend from captivity.

Understandably, the theme is somewhat recognizable to movie audiences as our hero hides from a killer is a recipe for paranoia and anxiety. However, The Boy Behind the Door takes this dangerous situation to a whole new terrifying way. By no means does The Boy Behind the Door reinvent the home invasion genre, yet it still operates within the confines of the genre. It toys with tropes, turns them on their heads, and offers a fresh, welcome take on the genre. With that comes an escalating tension around every twist and turn.

Writers/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell add a level of complexity to the film as it weaves the elements of horror and thriller together perfectly. The scares aren’t always gory, and the thrills aren’t always realistic, so you’ll want to suspend disbelief. After all, they’re just kids, and there are certain physical capabilities that they can and cannot do. 

That being said, the story is simple, and the motivation of the villain is simply greed. There’s no elaborate backstory — just the simple imagery of them receiving money for the heinous things that they do. Once they finally reveal who the faceless villain is, it becomes less of a home invasion film and more slasher film. This tonal shift is where the mixture of horror and thriller comes into play.

The Boy Behind the Door - Lonnie Chavis

As it is with a majority of horror films, sound plays a big part in this film. Charbonier and Powell rely on sound effects to draw tension within the scene. If you also listen carefully, you’ll notice a subtle heartbeat effect that raises anxiety. It must be human nature, but I felt my heart rate rising as I hear the heartbeat sound effect go faster and faster. The Boy Behind the Door is uncharacteristically compelling for a horror film because it relies on the anticipation of the jolts and jumps behind the build-up of the film’s intensity. Charbonier and Powell are also a master of timing as they get a lot of mileage out of using jump scares at the perfect moment.

The Boy Behind the Door is very Hitchcockian in its cinematography too. Julián Estrada’s claustrophobic cinematography gets up close and personal with these characters so you can see the fear in their eyes. Estrada also uses darkness and light to create a scary house environment. Yet Hitchcock isn’t the only visual that the film is trying to emulate. The visuals take a lot of inspiration from films, such as The Shining or Friday the 13th

Overall, The Boy Behind the Door is a super-tense horror-thriller that’ll leave you on the edge of your couch. Plot and character issues aside, there’s no doubt in Charbonier and Powell’s taste in horror. They’re fans of the genre, and it shows in this tense film. 

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1613 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.