The Boy Behind the Door (2020) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Boy Behind the Door (2020) Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on November 27th, 2020 | Movie Review | Survival, Teen, Confined

Two boys are kidnapped and must evade their captors in order to survive.

The Boy Behind the Door was directed by Justin Powell and David Charbonier and stars Lonnie Chavis, Ezra Dewey, Kristin Bauer Van Straten, Scott Michael Foster (from The Pact II) and Micah A. Hauptman.

The Boy Behind the Door Review

If you follow my reviews, you know I don’t normally watch horror movies about kids. But this one caught my eye, and even though it stressed me out beyond belief, I’m so glad I got to see Writer/Director team Justin Powell and David Charbonier’s first feature film. They delivered a heart-stopping, atmospheric indie that one must watch in order to understand how it makes you feel. Heads up - this is a triggering film dealing with a very dark subject.

Two adolescent best friends, Bobby and Kevin, are warming up for a baseball game in the woods when they are suddenly knocked out cold and kidnapped by two strangers and taken to a secluded home. When Bobby comes to, he manages to escape from the trunk of a car he’s been stashed in, and he makes a break for it - but then he hears his friend’s cries from the house, and he puts his fears aside to bravely venture back into the house to attempt to free his friend.

In real time, we see Bobby make moves that are realistic to a smart and adept young boy trying everything he can, and putting his own life on the line, to save his friend. We are given very little information about Bobby or Kevin, but the way they react to certain circumstances tells us quite a bit about their characters. We’re not overloaded with information about any of what’s going on or why, but the true nature of the situation tensely unravels slowly and effectively.

Interestingly, we never see or hear from either of the kids’ parents. This trauma and will to survive is theirs and theirs alone. We’re never thinking about what the parents are feeling, because those characters don’t exist. It keeps us in the moment and makes the story not about family, but about the power of friendship and the resilience of kids. We hear that this is every parent’s worst nightmare - but I’d venture a guess that this is an even bigger nightmare for a child, and when the kids discover the motivation for the kidnapping, it churns your stomach.

There’s an obvious homage to The Shining and some not-so-subtle indications about the kind of people the captors are, such as a “Make America Great Again” sticker seen on a car bumper, and a comment about how Bobby, who is Black, was to be left to rot in the trunk. But they didn’t bet on Bobby being the savior, the warrior, and especially, the quick thinker. 

There are no cheap scares, very little gore, and most of the violence goes unseen. This movie’s realistic nature is what made it shocking. The way the characters operate and the decisions they make are true to form, and there are no real tropes to be found - no unrealistically escaping a room, or getting to someone from a different exit that we come to expect in genre films. 

Truly stellar performances from the kids and the captors bring this movie to life, and you can’t help but care deeply about the outcome of the characters. With a darkness that won’t fade from any shot, we are lent an uncomfortable feeling that we’re not so sure things are going to work out the way we want them to. 

Worth Watching?

Yes. The suspense will glue you to the screen, if you can stomach the premise. You’ll be holding your breath until the final scene.

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