“The Boy Behind the Door”

3.5 STARS

Thriller films are one of the most perfect genres for indie filmmakers because a talented director can do plenty with a micro-budget, an accomplished cast, and a solid story. That’s the brilliance of “The Boy Behind the Door”: there’s no need for fancy sets or expensive Hollywood studio assistance to make a dark, intense, and genuinely hair-raising movie.

Best friends Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey) are throwing around a baseball in the park when they are suddenly knocked out and abducted by an unknown predator. Hours later, Bobby comes to in the trunk of a car, his arms and legs bound with rope. Scared and confused, he manages to free himself and makes a run for it — until he hears Kevin’s screams coming from somewhere inside the adjacent house. Refusing to leave his buddy behind, Bobby decides to take matters into his own hands and becomes a one-boy rescue crew.

The sense of dread is palpable from the onset, as the film doesn’t waste any time with a slow build-up. Instead of giving us a complicated backstory, the directors instead throw dark and upsetting material at the viewers head-on. We know and learn very little about these two best friends, yet you instantly care about them and become invested in their survival from the start. The high stakes emotional connection is strong because every aspect of their abduction feels plausible. By the time you get to the end of the story, your nerves will likely be shot.

Co-written and co-directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, “The Boy Behind the Door” is a tense, effective, and unrelenting thriller. Even if it’s not one of the best of the genre, you have to respect the achievement in clever filmmaking. The duo behind the camera excel at building suspense with an expert use of basic, low budget techniques like sound and light.

It’s the little things that make a huge impact here, like scoring a scene with the simple sound of a heartbeat, or the amplified creak of wooden floorboards, or the menacing sound of deliberate footsteps. The use of shadows to set the tone makes even the most welcoming house seem terrifying, with spooky silhouettes and soft uplighting to highlight the darkness and claustrophobia of a small closet. The editing is effective too, with many tight close-ups to further stress the viewer out. It’s genius low-budget film production.

By: Louisa Moore

This film was screened at Fantastic Fest 2020

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