Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chiller Films | Daily Texan Staff

Director Craig Macneill tries his hardest to make the disturbing transition the titular character in “The Boy” undergoes very subtle. The trouble is, that transition is too subtle. The child, Ted, is supposed to be warping into a murderous sociopath, but the clues pointing to his horrific destiny are too spaced out and too insignificant. Instead of coming off as a budding monster, Ted seems to be a sympathetic, socially inept kid. Although the acting is remarkable, “The Boy” dives into a dull tale of a boy who experiences an unconvincing transformation into a vicious creature.

In 1989, young Ted (Jared Breeze) is a lonely kid whose dad (David Morse) operates a run-down motel in a mountainous wasteland. Ted is neglected by his despondent father and dreams of traveling to Florida to be with his mom. The kid’s obsession with dead animals and an inner hatred of being trapped in the motel seem to stoke an inner rage. His fascination with death strengthens when he meets the mysterious William (Rainn Wilson), a drifter who just cremated his deceased wife. Ted’s burning desire to leave the motel and morbid outlook on life begin to lead him down a dark path.

The film takes a tedious amount of time chronicling Ted’s dangerous transition, but it picks strange moments to highlight as "examples" of his sociopathic tendency. Sure, he collects roadkill off the highway for his father in exchange for quarters, but this comes off as disgusting than than disturbing. The first instance when Ted shows a capability for hurting other people, which is when he nearly drowns another kid while they play in the hotel pool, comes late in the second act. It, too, could be written off as something a hyper, unsupervised boy would do. There are simply no definite acts that indicate that Ted is dangerous early in the film.

It’s odd that the director chooses these ineffective moments to illustrate Ted’s murderous desires while ignoring other would-be examples in the film that are as neatly set up as bowling pins. Early in the movie, Ted is shown to have a pet rabbit. Usually, seeing a cute animal in the first act of a horror film is a clear sign that said animal will not make it out alive by the end. But here, the rabbit disappears completely from the plot, presumably unscathed. This exemplifies a missed opportunity to show Ted’s savagery in his journey to becoming a complete monster. When Ted finally jumps into his final metamorphosis into a psychopath at the film’s impressive climax, it feels unearned because of the character’s lack of development.

Although the story is weak, the actors give great performances, and they all channel significant dissatisfaction with their lives. Breeze excellently portrays Ted's frustration and emotional instability. It’s easy to sympathize with his plight, which makes it all the more harder to see him as a cold-blooded killer. Wilson is also fascinating as the drifter who befriends Ted, although a few plot threads that involve him are left dangling by the end of the film.

“The Boy” is a misguided take on a kid’s descent into madness. Macneill tries to ignore certain stereotypes associated with child sociopaths, such as desires to inflict pain on smaller creatures, and replaces them with examples that don’t make much sense. A lack of engaging incidents involving Ted make the film tedious. While it boasts strong actors and gorgeous cinematography, “The Boy” feels like a movie so desperate to be different that it fails to focus on the believability of the world and its characters.

  • Director: Craig Macneill
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Runtime: 105 minutes
  • Rating: 5/10 Mountain Motels
In the week to come, these hallways will fill with activity and good vibrations as festival goers and artists come to Austin for South By Southwest. Drifter Jack’s Hostel owes its vibrant murals to the talent and creative expres- sion of local Austinites.
Photo Credit: Jack DuFon | Daily Texan Staff

As celebrities make their ways to penthouse suites for South By Southwest, a large number of festival-goers will call Firehouse Lounge & Hostel and Drifter Jack’s Hostel home for the week.

When Collin Ballard co-founded Firehouse two years ago, there were no hostels in Austin. Currently, Firehouse is fully booked during SXSW. The hostel can house up to 72 people, has private or dorm-style rooms, and is located a block off of Sixth Street in the oldest standing firehouse in Austin.     

Ballard said he opened the hostel because it was the perfect combination of his passion for travel and love of hosting. Working the front desk as concierge allows Ballard to direct guests to different spots in Austin depending on their interests. He enjoys tailoring his suggestions to make sure guests take full advantage of all Austin has to offer.   

He recommends his guests visit East Sixth Street’s “off the beaten path” bar scene, Rainey Street, and the shops on South Congress. 

If guests aren’t interested in leaving the cozy confines of the hostel, Firehouse will be hosting its own festivities. 

The shows will take place in the dimly lit hostel bar with warm red walls and comfortable black leather booths. Firehouse kicks off its SXSW week Tuesday around 3 p.m. with a number of local bands, and it will finish up with a laid-back lounge Saturday. 

“[Firehouse is] a nice little place to come and meet your friends and recharge,” Ballard said. “Charge your phone, charge your body. Get some water [and] get some more alcohol before heading out to the last shows of the week.“ 

Across town, Drifter Jack’s is preparing for incoming SXSW guests. Drifter Jack’s is not only a hostel; it’s a showcase of Austin artists’ murals. Located off Guadalupe and 26th streets, Drifter Jack’s will house artists and bands from all over the world. 

Three weeks before Drifter Jack’s opening in October 2013, more then 25 artists worked to cover the hostel’s walls with murals. Andy Ward, UT alumnus and owner of Drifter Jack’s, said he gave the artists free reign to paint the blank walls however they pleased. As a result, each room has a different theme that exhibits the artists’ individual styles.  

Painter and graffiti artist Chris Rodgers, who created murals downtown such as the #BeSomebody mural and Russian House mural, painted one of the rooms. The wall is a an East Coast meets West Coast theme with Tupac’s and Biggie’s faces covering the wall from top to bottom.

Miranda Lewis, local artist and co-founder of visionary art collective Third Coast Visions, painted female goddess figures on the yellow, orange and green walls of the female-only dorm.  

A tree of life mural with double-helix DNA detailing on the tree’s trunk adorns the walls of “The Sacred Geometry Room.” Chance Roberts, Austin artist and co-founder of Third Coast
Visions, created the art for the room.

With SXSW’s ensuing influx of visitors, Ballard agreed that staying at either hostels will diversify festival-goers’ vacation experience.

“Meeting people and interacting with guests from all over the world is the biggest pay-off,” Ballard said.