The directorial debut of David Charbonier.

I think it’s fair to say that by now I should be shifting my understanding of kids acting in movies. You see, I grew up in the 90s meaning I grew up primarily watching 80s and 90s live action kids shows, created by and for Nickelodeon and similar networks. So it’s been ingrained in my mind that kid actors in general just suck. Which isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of films and shows from that era that had good kid actors, but they felt more like the exception than the rule. Nowadays I find myself saying “actually these kids were good actors” enough that it’s really just the norm now. You can have films like Fatman, Five Fingers, The Conjuring, and it’s just normal to have good child actors.

So after devoting a full paragraph to the notion, I won’t say that The Boy Behind The Door surprised me in how two child actors led a great film. This is one I missed out on from last year, and one I wanted to see before the next anticipated child abduction movie; The Black Phone. The Boy Behind The Door is the directorial debut of David Charbonier and Justin Powell, who have since directed the film Djinn. Charbonier’s muse is apparently Ezra Dewey who appears in both films. The crux of the film is that two kids named Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey) are abducted by some unknown person and taken to a house in the middle of nowhere. While Kevin is taken into the house, Bobby escapes from the car trunk and sneaks into the house, trying to figure out how to save his friend and escape.

Honestly it’s best to go into this movie as blind as possible. I’m not even going to give the name of the actor who plays the kidnapper because that in itself is kind of a spoiler. One thing I will note about the movie is that while Charbonier went in more of a mythical direction with Djinn, this movie is 100% grounded in reality. There aren’t even any hints of the supernatural at play. It’s just two kids trying to escape the house of a deranged kidnapper. Micah Hauptman is in the film in a few spots, and Scott Michael Foster plays a cop. Foster played Captain Jones on the long-running show Greek.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is stressful, and at 88 minutes it makes virtually every second count. The actors are all incredibly strong in their roles, especially the kidnapper who keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire film. It is a brutal hour and a half that combines fantastic cinematography with actors who know how to make the world around them seem believable, not to mention doing a whole lot with very little. There are a few homages here and there to classic horror films like The Shining that pay respect without feeling like a lazy ripoff, and are short enough that I think even nitpickers shouldn’t find much to be annoyed by.

The worst thing I can say about The Boy Behind The Door is that it loves convenience. Everyone in this film is capable of both Sam Fisher level stealth as well as bumbling idiocy when the plot calls for either, and there’s a few points where characters are snuck up on despite the fact that they just did a 360 degree spin in an open area, and should have definitely seen their attacker coming from their direction. The kidnapper is even far more human than you might expect for a film like this.

Ultimately, The Boy Behind The Door is the kind of movie that justifies the subscription to Shudder, or at the very least a rental from Redbox. It’s well worth the time it asks of you, and in return you get a gripping film very much grounded in reality. It shows how far the minimalist approach can take a movie, and the cast drives it right through to the end.

Rating: A