Earlier this year I saw ‘The Djinn’ by directorial duo David Charbonier and Justin Powell. It was an effective and creepy horror tale (on the cheap) about a mute boy that ends up getting more than he bargained for, when he makes a wish he can’t take back. While it was definitely worth seeing, it didn’t quite hit home for me. But it did make me interested in looking up what the writer-director duo would be up to next. Or in this case; what they did before. ‘The Boy Behind the Door‘ was their debut, but is only released now as a Shudder original.

Twelve year old Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and his friend Kevin (Ezra Dewey from ‘The Djinn’) are inseparable. Their carefree life is about to turn into a hellish nightmare when both of them are abducted and taken to a remote house. While Kevin is being locked away in a separate room, Bobby manages to escape from the locked trunk he’s kept in. As he contemplates running away into the middle of nowhere, he hears Kevin’s cries for help and decides he can’t leave him behind.

As with ‘The Djinn’, the story is as bare bones as it gets. While that seemed to limit the sophomore fantasy-horror, ‘The Boy Behind the Door’ benefits from it greatly. As Bobby sneaks into the house and tries to stay undetected while he navigates the dark corridors of the old building, you’re right there with him, heart pounding. This is primal fear 101 and it works like a charm.

Charbonier and Powell also know to keep the threat ever present but largely unseen in their debut. It’s wildly effective. We don’t know anything more than Bobby does and with the arrival of a second villain we’re just as surprised as he is. The man is credited only as the creep and adds another layer of tension onto an already unbearable atmosphere. The lurid goings-on in the creaky old house are only hinted at, but it doesn’t take a mastermind to fill in the horrible blanks.

I’d say the third act is the weakest. It still works wonders, but the cat and mouse game between Bobby and the surprise baddy becomes a little too repetitive. The palpable tension is traded in for more blood and violence as the movie careens towards a satisfactory but very by the book ending.

There are a few leaps in logic and some suspension of disbelief to overcome but thanks to great performances by the young cast and solid direction from Charbonier and Powell ‘The Boy Behind the Door’ ends up being a dark, disturbing, pulse pounding chiller that hardly lets up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed online, July 30, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 88 min.

PRODUCTION: A Shudder release of a Kinogo Pictures & Whitewater Films production. Producers: Jim Hart, John Hermann, Ryan Lewis, Rick Rosenthal, Ryan Scaringe. Executive producers: Howard Barish, Bert Kern, Nick Morton.

CREW: Directors/writers: David Charbonier & Justin Powell. Cinematography: Julián Estrada. Editing: Stephen Boyer. Music: Anton Sanko.

CAST: Lonnie Chavis, Ezra Dewey, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Micah Hauptman.

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