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FrightFest 2021: Boy #5 Gets Going Way Too Late

I’m a sucker for vampire movies. I love old Bela Lugosi films, newer action-horror franchises like Blade and Underworld, and everything in between. If you give me a bloodsucking creature of the night, I’m usually a pretty happy camper, so when I heard about a new vampire movie called Boy #5 playing at FrightFest this year, I knew I had to cover it.

Directed by Eric Ian Steele and starring Laura Montgomery Bennett, Lennon Leckey, Natasha Naomi Rea, and Adrian Palmer, Boy #5 is about a homeless boy named Nathan who’s found in the streets by the police one day. He’s turned over to Marjorie, a social worker whose last client committed suicide and who sees this boy as her second chance. Initially, Nathan is very shy and withdrawn, but soon enough, Marjorie realizes that he’s unlike anybody she’s ever met.

At only about an hour and ten minutes, Boy #5 doesn’t have a lot of time to tell its story. It has to hit hard and fast, but unfortunately, it does the exact opposite. For the vast majority of its runtime, it takes a very slow-burn approach, building up the characters and the situation but eschewing any action or scares. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, it just becomes a bit too much.

It’s not that I don’t like slow burns. I’m a huge fan when they’re done well. The problem is that if you’re going to take this approach, you need to have something to keep viewers’ attention until the movie gets to the “good stuff,” and this one just doesn’t have much that can fit that bill. For starters, the characters are all pretty bland. There’s not much depth to them, so they don’t draw you into the story the way they should.

A boy looking serious

Along similar lines, the acting in Boy #5 isn’t all that noteworthy either. Most of it is decent enough (although not much more than that), but one particular performance just doesn’t cut it: Lennon Leckey as Nathan. Nathan is supposed to be a dark and brooding figure, but Leckey is pretty bland and lifeless in the role. In fact, he reminded me a bit too much of an early 2000s emo kid trying to be tough. I didn’t buy him as a vampire at all, and that really sunk the film for me.

On top of that, the story is pretty thin, too. When I write reviews of movies that bored me, I usually try to avoid the common criticism that “nothing happened.” That’s almost never actually true, so I don’t find it all that helpful. But to be honest, it’s pretty spot-on here. For large chunks of this story, nothing really happens. There are times when the plot stands pretty still, and the film doesn’t do anything to make up for it.

That being said, there were also a few times when I thought the movie was finally going to get good, and these moments were genuinely captivating. They even made me sit up a bit straighter and put down the snack I was munching on, so I really thought the tide was about to turn. For example, there’s a scene where Nathan sits down with Marjorie and one of her coworkers, and they ask him where he came from. He doesn’t say a ton, but the little bit he does tell them is pretty intriguing. It raises some really fun possibilities about his backstory, so I was ready to go all in on the film.

But just about every time a cool moment like that happened, the movie completely dropped the ball and went back to its boring status quo immediately afterwards. It was like a car engine that couldn’t quite get going, and it frustrated me to no end. If a film is going to be bad, that’s fine, but I really hate it when a movie tricks me into thinking it’s finally going to get good and then goes back to being boring.

A woman hitting something with a shovel

The only good part of Boy #5 is the last fifteen minutes or so, and I have to say, that stretch is actually really good. By the time I got there, I was expecting the film to go out with a whimper, but it did no such thing. In the third act, Nathan finally started acting like a real vampire, so it became a legit horror movie, not just a drama about a vampire.

I really dug it, and I wish the rest of the movie could’ve been more like it. I even would’ve been okay with a slower, more character-driven first act, but at the very least, the second act needed to lean into the horror the way the finale did. It should’ve ditched the slow build-up and gone right for the jugular, and given what I saw from the third act, I think that could’ve made for an awesome vampire film.

But unfortunately, Boy #5 didn’t go that route, so at the end of the day, I can’t quite recommend it. However, I’m not going to say that it’s a complete waste of your time, either. The last fifteen minutes don’t exactly make the other fifty-five worth it, but if you’re a big vampire fan and you can spare about an hour of boredom, you might want to give this movie a shot for the third act alone. But if you don’t want to slog through the first two acts to get to the good stuff, then I’d suggest skipping this one and checking out some other FrightFest goodies instead.

Boy #5 is playing at FrightFest on August 28.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today. He blogs at Embrace Your Fears.

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