New Releases: The Boy Behind the Door (2021) - Reviewed

As children, we often dream about what it’s like to be an adult.  Adulthood means more freedom and new possibilities, so the idea of it’s appealing to youth.  When we actually become adults, however, we realize adulthood isn’t always as exciting as we had hoped for.  Entrenched in bills, work, and responsibilities, many adults often find themselves thinking somewhere down the line, “wouldn’t it be nice to be a kid again?”


In David Charbonier and Justin Powell’s The Boy Behind the Door, we see two children learn the hard way that growing up isn’t always fun.  “Friends ‘til the end” Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey) daydream of adventure, wondering what it’s like to be an adult and venturing out by themselves to have some fun.  Unfortunately for them, they are forced to “grow up” far too soon when they become kidnapped and are taken to a remote location.  Bobby is able to escape from the car trunk he is left in, but as he flees, hears Kevin crying out in distress from a mysterious house nearby.  Bobby’s loyalty to his friend goes full throttle, and he bravely runs to Kevin’s rescue, battling up against their cruel abductors in order to ensure their safety.  Needless to say, Bobby and Kevin do find some adventure, but it’s not exactly the kind they were hoping for.


The Boy Behind the Door is a film that skillfully dances between the innocence of childhood with the brutality of adulthood.  While the boys are free, they are surrounded by color and lush nature, but once they are kidnapped, everything goes cold as the film turns to a more muted color palette with nature scenes that feel more ominous than inviting.  There is an inspired sequence where Bobby realizes what he must do that juxtaposes shots of Kevin kidnapped with flash frames of him smiling from earlier in the day.  Beyond the visual depictions of this theme, narrative choices are made to drive it home as well.  We see the boys constantly being put in situations that represent adulthood — being forced to drive a car or use a weapon, for instance.   


The performances of both young lead actors are exceptional and amplify the absolute horror of the conflicts they are facing.  The boys are able to portray both vulnerability and strength in their acting, and effortlessly seem like they could be best friends.  Some of their best moments come from when they are selflessly aiding each other, and the audience easily becomes invested in their struggles, not only because their performances are so convincing, but also due to the sheer fact that these are children enduring such a terrifying scenario.

The film is filled to the brim with action and suspense.  Short on exposition with minimal dialogue, it is a fast-paced cat and mouse game between Bobby and the adults who wish to stop him.  We’re given very little backstory for the boys and know even less about their adversaries, and rightfully so:  it would only slow the film down and water down its impact.  We are only shown what we need to see, and nothing more.  A film that understands visual storytelling is admirable, and this film is a master of it.  The tight editing serves this purpose well, resulting in an ultra-engaging film that commands your attention and keeps you at the edge of your seat the entire running time.


The Boy Behind the Door is a disturbing watch for many reasons, but it’s a brilliantly executed and entertaining portrayal of innocents witnessing the dark side of adulthood for the very first time.  If you can stomach the subject matter, give this one a watch next time you’re feeling like a film heavy on suspense.

—Andrea Riley