Written by: Adam Vaughn | July 28th, 2021
The Boy Behind the Door (David Charbonier/Justin Powell, 2020) 2 out of 4 stars.
There is much potential in directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell’s gripping and timely story of two children kidnapped from the comfort of their lives and locked away to await a fiendish fate! The Boy Behind the Door instantly drew me in with its promise of an all-too-real premise involving 12-year-old boys trapped in a nightmare. While Charbonier and Powell set up an enthralling plotline and dangerous situation for the two protagonists, eventually the film succumbs to silly character choices and unrealistic plot points that detach the film from its original terror.
The Boy Behind the Door follows Bobby (Lonnie Chavis, The Water Man) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey, The Djinn) as their post-baseball practice is violently interrupted when they are kidnapped and contained in a remote, rural setting far from civilization. Bobby and Kevin must fight against time to escape their captors and find freedom. But danger lies around every corner as the two boys find themselves overcoming obstacle after obstacle to evade their predatory foes.
The initial set up is sweet and to the point, with a beginning flashback that, to my surprise, helped launch the story quite effectively. Once we reach the desolate location, the tension in the story becomes a major driving force, with many examples of tense cinematography to complement the sense of claustrophobia and close-call encounters with the kidnappers. Astonishingly, Bobby is able to defeat “The Creep” (Micah Hauptman, Only Humans) very early in the film. This creates a very interesting dynamic between boy and adult, as Bobby becomes no longer a helpless child, but a strong protagonist.
Where the film starts to fall apart is shortly after we are introduced to Ms. Burton (Kristin Bauer van Straten, Paradise Cove), the apparent brains behind the kidnapping. Sure, it was a nice twist to see a ruthless female villain at the helm, and van Straten’s performance as a twisted sex-trafficking kidnapper was able to sell the second half of the film. The issue, however, is that Charbonier and Powell start to take a classic Hollywood approach to the film’s resolution, with overly predictable outcomes at every corner, and often unbelievable and even goofy character choices. Inevitably, The Boy Behind the Door devolves into a conventional thriller, with very little introspection into the film’s content and context.