Film Pulse Score

Fantastic Fest 2020: THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR Review

  • Release Date: September 26, 2020
  • Director: David Charbonier, Justin Powell
  • Runtime: 88 Minutes

Reminiscent of 2016’s home-invasion thriller Don’t Breathe, David Charbonier and Justin Powell’s kidnap thriller The Boy Behind The Door is an undeniably suspenseful, albeit often misguided, story about two best friends fighting for survival after being abducted.

Setting aside the inconsistent messaging, which I will touch in later, the film works well as a simple thriller, propelled by the performance of its lead actor, Lonnie Chavis, as a boy named Bobby. Chavis plays opposite Ezra Dewey (giving an equally commendable performance), who portray two friends who are abducted by a mysterious figure that takes one of the children to a room, leaving the other one locked in a car trunk.

After Bobby escapes the trunk, he decides to return to free his friend, and the two work together to escape with their lives. The film opens with the pair in the car’s trunk before quickly jumping back in time to six hours prior, when the abduction occurs. While this time jump may successfully set up a certain amount of intrigue, the very brief flashback does little in the way of character development, essentially just showing us what we already know. It’s an inconsequential aside that would have done better with simply being omitted and thus allowing us to just infer how these boys were grabbed. 

The bulk of the runtime is spent with Bobby, desperately sneaking around the house trying to find a way to rescue his friend while avoiding the adults who mean to do them harm. These moments are suspenseful as is, but the use of sound, or lack thereof, is what really causes the tension to ramp up. Instead of using musical cues, the film is dead silent for large portions, accentuating every little floorboard creak and subtle movement. It works tremendously well and adds a hefty amount to the ever-increasing stakes of it all.

Perplexingly, the writer-director duo decides to make some blatant parallels to The Shining, lifting specific scenes from one of the most iconic horror films ever made, and also hone in on a “MAGA” bumper sticker at one point. There’s seemingly no reason behind these choices — at least no connection that my colleagues or I could make — in this otherwise satisfying thriller. 

Still, the non-stop suspense and strong performances from the central cast make The Boy Behind The Door an exciting, entertaining piece of cinema, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting these directors’ next project, hopefully with fewer ties to conspiracy theory nonsense. 

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