SXSW Film Review: The Boy

Portrait of a Serial Killer as a Young Boy sums it up

The Boy is a title that makes this movie sound innocuous. A more fitting header would be Portrait of the Serial Killer as a Young Boy. It is the first film in a planned trilogy about the growth of a mass murderer.

There is no doubt by the end of The Boy that 9-year-old Ted Henley (Jarod Breeze) is a certifiable psychopath who, barring intervention, will kill and kill again. He’s an odd and lonely boy, who lives with his detached father (David Morse) at their dilapidated and isolated motel where no one arrives by intent. The appearance of William Colby (Rainn Wilson) is then all the more mysterious.

Ted’s fascination with dead things and his active causation of violent demise is laid out over the course of several developments. Filmed in Medellin, Colombia, the location on the side of a mountain is spectacular, which only emphasizes the unseemly pall that hangs over the motel. The electronic music score by Hauschka, aka Volker Bertelmann, adds to the overall queasiness but often calls too much attention to itself. The performances and tech credits are effectively premonitory.

Director Craig Macneill co-wrote the screenplay with Clay McLeod Chapman, author of the novel, Miss Corpus, on which the feature and an earlier short film by Macneill is based, and it was produced by SpectreVision partners Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah, and Josh C. Waller, and Chiller Films. We can only hope all these people took extreme care while guiding the young actor Jarod Breeze to engage in all the story’s dark designs. Although the film's approach is more measured than the usual demon-child fare, it is material that is, nevertheless, unsuitable for children.

The Boy

Narrative Competition
Thursday, March 19, 10pm, Alamo Lamar

Keep up with all our SXSW Film coverage at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Q&A With Comedian Tig Notaro
Q&A With Tig Notaro
Showtime documentary airs Friday

Andy Campbell, April 15, 2015

SXSW Film 2015 Rundown
SXSW Film Coverage
Reviews, interviews, photo galleries, and more

March 22, 2015

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
All That Breathes
The struggle by three men to save the endangered black kite

March 31, 2023

SXSW Film Review: <i>Joy Ride</i>
Film Review: Joy Ride
Groundbreaking comedy doesn't break the raunchy mold

March 19, 2023


SXSW Film, SXSW Film 2015, The Boy, Craig Macneill, David Morse, Rainn Wilson, Jared Breeze, Clay McLeod Chapman

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle