Written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, the same people behind the recent Djinn film, The Boy Behind the Door is a well-made suspense horror where the leads are kids who don’t get on the viewer’s nerves (and that is something that is not easily achieved for this viewer). The way the characters are written is simple enough, but also natural in the way they are friends and how they react to things. Both kids bring the right amount of maturity and a bit of nonsense at times, which works for their age. The adults are mostly the evil characters here and they quickly remind the viewer that the really are people like this out there, only looking out for their own interest, not worrying about who they hurt. Here the kids and adults come into contact and a battle of wits ensues.
Playing the two boys are Lonnie Chavis as Bobby, the one who frees himself, and Ezra Dewey as Kevin, the one needing to be freed. Both young actors do really great work with their parts and give more emotions and appropriate reactions than most adults do in similar situation films. Playing the kidnappers/creeps are Kristin Bauer van Straten and Micah Hauptman, both giving off a good amount of bad vibes and evil spirit. The two of them make it difficult for the kids and they make it so that the viewer can really feel the danger the young ones are in. The bast here has a few other people involved, but it is kept to a minimum, something that really helps maintain the claustrophobia of the film and its situation.
Visually, this film knows how to create claustrophobia and a feeling of hopelessness throughout, both things working against the two boys which makes their fight to get out connect even better. The film’s production design by Ryan Brett Puckett, art direction by Kyle Smith, its cinematography by Julián Estrada, and the editing by Stephen Boyer all come together to create this perfect look where the dark and hidden corners of a house become part of the fear and suspense and where everything is not necessarily as it seems, giving the film layers of visual items to look at and see while everything is going on. Darkness and light are used carefully to build the suspense and to carefully direct the viewer where the film wants them to go without spelling it all out for them.
The Boy Behind the Door is a carefully crafted film that mixed elements of suspense, thriller, and horror to build tension while keeping its cast believable and reacting in just the right ways to make the situation realistic throughout. It’s a bit of a rough watch at times for those who can connect with real fears of children being taken and with some of the aspects of the film that are not overtly used usually. There are some visuals here that are not gory at all, but will be completely disturbing to some, so trigger warning solidly in place for this film (kidnappers taking two boys for ominous reasons gets explained in a way that cannot be ignored).