The Boy… who would be a serial killer. Jered Breeze plays the titular boy, 9-year-old Ted; who is nowhere near as funny or lovable as another Ted with which you may be more familiar. This horror/thriller explores the possible consequences of isolation, loneliness, abandonment, anger, and a fascination with death as Ted’s psychopathic tendencies slowly evolve throughout the movie. While it may seem slow to some, it is very realistic and may even be considered unnerving by many.
Ted’s father, John (the always enthralling David Morse), runs a small motel where him and Ted live seemingly miles from anywhere. John hasn’t recovered from his wife leaving and is constantly down and depressed occasionally trying to get through by drinking (which never works, but people will keep trying). Because of John’s despondency, Ted is left alone with the responsibility of cleaning the motel and caring for their livestock. But because the motel frequently has zero guests (much to the dismay of John’s creditors), cleaning doesn’t take up a lot of Ted’s time leaving him alone with only his thoughts and weird hobbies.
Ted has some kind of deal set up with his father to collect roadkill in exchange for an unspecified amount of payment. Instead of just collecting roadkill, he starts placing food in the center of the road to lure animals into the path of passing motorists. On some level, this is genius and a pretty good business plan. However, on the other hand, it is also one of the first (but definitely not last) signs that something may be off with Ted.
Ted’s ambitions are made clear fairly early on; he is saving the money he gets from his father in order to buy a bus ticket to his mother. He dislikes living at the dying motel and uses every opportunity to either gain a trip away from there or keep guests at the motel. He’ll even go as far as snooping through occupied rooms and personal vehicles. As each opportunity fails to pan out the way he’d hoped, his anger and resentment grows.
Jered is excellent in the role; it’s almost creepy how well he plays Ted. The way his facial expression changes in the pool as Ted’s mind flips from playful to ominous is very telling. Many scenes lack dialogue and depend solely on Ted’s action and reactions to determine what is going on in his mind and most of the time, it works. Of course, we are watching a burgeoning psychopathic Norman Bates-esque character, so some of the time, it’s tough to tell what is going through his mind (tough to avoid the Psycho comparison when the boy works in a motel and seems to have great affection for his absent mother).
Rainn Wilson appears as a traveler whose car is damaged by Ted’s roadkill deal. He and Ted briefly form a bit of a bond, but it doesn’t last after Ted becomes fascinated with the traveler’s dead wife’s ashes. Like much of the movie and characters, Rainn’s traveler is dark and kind of lost in his own despondency; nothing like Dwight Schrute or some of his other more light-hearted characters. While it is eye-opening, The Boy is in no way an uplifting movie.