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Fantastic Fest 2020: “The Boy Behind the Door” Film Review

“The Boy Behind the Door” had its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest on Sunday, September 27. The movie is about two boys, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey), who are kidnapped and brought to a house in rural South Dakota. Bobby is able to escape, but then he hears Kevin’s screams and decides to go back to help him out too.

It’s hard for me to describe just how much I love this movie. It manages to be filled with suspense and fast-paced at the same time, so huge props to the co-writers and co-directors, David Charbonier and Justin Powell.

It opens with glimpses of the landscape, including oil rigs but no homes or other buildings. Then we cut to Kevin being taken out of a car’s trunk, while Bobby is left shut in it. After that, the film reverts back to six hours earlier, when we get to see the two boys just being kids. They’re out in a remote area, talking and hanging out before their baseball game — and that’s when they’re taken.

Kidnapping is obviously not a light subject matter, but “The Boy Behind the Door” takes it even further: The person who kidnapped them gets money from pedophiles to spend time with the kidnapping victims. We see the mysterious kidnapper accepting a wad of cash, then giving a man a watch with a timer set to go off in one hour. Then the kidnapper leaves the man to do whatever he’s going to do. It’s an absolutely sickening idea, but luckily this film isn’t interested in causing its young protagonists (or its audience) that kind of trauma. I don’t want to give anything away, but events transpire such that the child molester doesn’t really harm Kevin or Bobby.

But the watch timer comes into play, now as a clever technique to build suspense. We can see it counting down, and we know that when the countdown ends, the kidnapper returns. The movie goes back and forth between characters hiding and fighting, which is what keeps the tension set to high and the action at a good pace. I spent at least half of the movie on the edge of my seat, fidgeting, and I did my best not to make a single sound as our protagonists were hiding from whatever threat was around the corner.

The vast majority of “The Boy Behind the Door” is on Chavis’s shoulders, and he does an amazing job. He genuinely made me believe in his fear, his pain and his devotion to his best friend. I was rooting for him to make the right decisions and to save them both; his performance is a big reason why I was so nervous watching this film.

Dewey doesn’t have as much to do, since he’s the one locked up for a good chunk of the run time, but the scenes in which he was an active participant were impressive. People tend to be wary of child actors, but there’s nothing to worry about in this film on that front. These two had such chemistry that they even made the phrase “friends till the end” sweet instead of creepy, undoing years of scares from “Child’s Play” with a few line readings.

I’ve made it clear that there’s no shortage of suspense in this film, but if you’re here for gore, you’ll get that too. There’s such a variety of injuries and weapons (and objects used as weapons) by every character. One of my favorite scenes is pictured above — a perfect homage to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” But aside from the ax, you’ll also see other common weapons (a gun, a knife) and some less common ones (a broomstick, wire cutters and some I don’t want to reveal).

There are so many interesting twists and set pieces in this movie that it’s hard to describe. But if you like home invasion movies in general, I think this one will work for you; think in the same realm as “Don’t Breathe,” “Green Room” or even the recent “Becky.” Of course, if you can’t stand seeing children in danger, this should be avoided at all costs, but I still think you’d be missing out on an amazing ride. I could see this being a repeat watch for me, because the tension was so expertly crafted by Charbonier and Powell. See this one when you can.

Stay tuned for all our Fantastic Fest 2020 coverage here. And make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for the latest Shuffle shenanigans!

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