According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an estimated 460,000 children go missing every year in the United States. Kids can disappear in the blink of an eye and are sometimes never found. It’s a terrifying and heartbreaking concept that writer/director team David Charbonier and Justin Powell tackle with sharp and savage precision. The duo delivers a harrowing look at child abduction and everlasting friendship in The Boy Behind The Door.
Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey) are “friends to the end.” The film opens with the two young boys warming up for their baseball game alone in a park. Within five minutes of screen time, Bobby is duct-taped and tied-up in the trunk of a car by himself while Kevin is nowhere to be found. Charbonier and Powell get straight to the action and straight to the point. The boys’ lives have changed forever within the blink of an eye, before they knew what (or who) even hit them. Bobby is able to maneuver the restraints loose and attempts to run away, but stops in his tracks once he hears Kevin’s screams coming from the house behind him. With no other help in sight, he decides to go back and try to help his best friend.
The majority of the film’s setting takes place within a large house complete with labyrinthine halls, buried secrets, and sinister motives. The use of a single location makes the film that much more claustrophobic and stress-inducing. Bobby navigates the house as carefully as possible but makes mistakes typical of any young boy of his age in a life-threatening situation. There are several surprises throughout the film, but they play out naturally within the plot. The timing in which certain encounters occur is not typical with films of this nature, which continuously leaves the audience guessing as to what will happen next. The reasons behind the kidnapping slowly unravel and only strengthens their desperation to get out of the dire situation they’re in.
The Boy Behind The Door is one of those horror films that has a plot which is entirely possible. This kind of kidnapping and assault happens to thousands of children. Its horror is rooted in reality, which Charbonier and Powell are not afraid to really drive home. Kevin and Bobby are put through hell in every physical and emotional sense. There are heartbreaking moments of defeat, moments of shocking realization, confusion, and pure unfiltered gore in their desperation to get out alive. The violence and special effects in the film are top-notch and speaks to both of the boys’ resiliency. They try to utilize whatever resources available to free themselves, whether that be searching for a kitchen knife, breaking fingernails off to break into an air duct, or learn how to use a rotary phone despite only seeing them in movies.
Viciousness aside, what makes the film that much more captivating is the powerful bond between these two friends. Chavis and Dewey are absolutely fantastic in their roles, and their platonic chemistry is palpable. Each actor delivers a soul-shattering performance with a maturity and talent well beyond their years. The film’s limited dialogue enhances their emotional performances while not reducing the plot’s potency. The camera work is also effortlessly effective in arousing terror and frantic decision making. As much authenticity this film brings to the table, there are several allusions to Kubrick’s The Shining as well as scenes reminiscent of The People Under the Stairs, which are entertaining, but somewhat overdone at times. However, it does capture the same sense of terror through the lens of a child. These experiences are that much more heartbreaking to watch as the boys fight for their lives when they aren’t even old enough to know how to drive a car, let alone be cognitively developed enough to handle the fight-or-flight response of cortisol rushing through their veins.
Charbonier and Powell are two creatives that clearly command attention and have a knack for relentlessly inducing dread, tension and a whole lot of heart within a world of peril. Keep them on your radar along with these young actors. The Boy Behind the Door is a frightening and riveting experience that will hold audiences captive until the very end.
/Film Rating: 9 out of 10
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