Craig William Macneill's The Boy tries so hard to be ominous that it nearly strains itself in the process. The boy in question is nine-year-old Ted (Jared Breeze), who lives in a decrepit motel deep in the mountains with his father, John (David Morse), who's too busy wallowing in his own sorrows to notice that his neglected son is turning into a sociopath. Meanwhile, bearded patron William (Rainn Wilson) settles in to the motel, becoming the father figure John isn't -- and possibly fueling Ted's evil in the process. Ted doesn't do much, and while the score goes out of its way to make his every action feel sinister, the picture doesn't fulfill its horrific potential until the third act.
The mysterious death of William's wife drives the plot, but one of the nice changes of pace about The Boy is that its budding killer is being raised by a father who is not a widower but a divorcé — and the filmmakers don't feel the need to off the mother, who is set up to appear in the sequel. Indeed, director Macneill has said that this is the first of a planned trilogy, and if there must be a trilogy about a sociopath named Ted, better it start with The Boy than Ted.