The Loneliest Boy In The World Lacks Heart Despite Colorful Set [Screamfest]

The Loneliest Boy In The World still of Oliver (Max Harwood) and dead Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) reclining on a couch.

The Loneliest Boy In The World, playing at Screamfest and directed by Martin Owen and written by Piers Ashworth, is a quirky horror comedy starring Max Harwood as Oliver. Oliver lives alone after his mom’s unfortunate death but, because of his upbringing, has a difficult time making friends. Determined to make friends, Oliver comes up with an odd idea to get his first friend. Blending the nuclear family sitcom style with retro aesthetics, The Loneliest Boy In The World does not scare or inspire laughs; there is a cuteness to it, provided you get past the fact that it is a white guy digging up corpses. 

The messaging, satirizing the obsession with the nuclear family, works. But Oliver’s upbringing has all the makings of a white serial killer. Raised by a controlling mother (played by Carol Ann Watts) who does not let him go out, they spend their days watching sitcoms like Alf until she dies. After that, Oliver stays at a mental institution until he turns 18 when they let him return home. But social worker Margot (Ashley Benson) warns Oliver he might return to the hospital if he does not make a friend. With an arbitarty deadline of one week, Oliver sets out to find a friend. 

The Cast Is Good, The Loneliest Boy In The World Is Dull

Under pastel-saturated suburbia in The Loneliest Boy In The World, Oliver digs up Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). Then, in short order, he digs up a new family. Mom Suzanne (Susan Wokoma), dad Frank (Ben Miller), and sister Mel (Zenobia Williams) become Oliver’s family out of a sitcom. Oddly enough, the entire family comes alive in the undead zombie sense, and each plays their respective role. There is no explanation why or how this happens; they just want viewers to go with it.

The Loneliest Boy In The World still of Oliver (Max Harwood) and dead Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) reclining on a couch.
The Loneliest Boy In The World still of Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) and Oliver (Max Harwood).

None of the cast gives a bad performance. Max Harwood delivers a character that is hurting, hopeful, and clueless. But there is not enough horror or comedy to reel me in or have me suspend disbelief. In both genres, timing is everything. But in The Loneliest Boy In The World the focus on appearance rather than anything else drags the film down. When I saw the zombies I wondered why they do not remember their lives before death. They play the family role for Oliver without complaint or any hint of remembering their past lives.

Sitcom Meets Burton Meets Flat Film

Though mimicking a sitcom, the jokes miss their mark. But unlike in sitcoms, there is no accompanying laugh track to save them. How many films portray white men as quirky, misunderstood, sympathetic, or harmless? The Loneliest Boy In The World feels more of the same, but less entertaining. Even with its Burton-esque visuals to appeal to some, the most memorable thing is the sets.

Sure, there is a coming-of-age story clear in the film. The zombies are there to help Oliver grow. But the movie’s visual aesthetics overcompensate for a shallowness. Without the emotional connection to the characters, you watch outside the film with no regard one way or the other for how the film ends.

Seeing The Loneliest Boy In The World, after witnessing people sympathize with Dahmer—whose primary targets were Black people—and watching Oliver dig up a Black woman is another level of disturbing. Too many connect to Dahmer, so it is not a stretch to imagine them cooing over a socially awkward grave robber. Under normal circumstances, an oddball film with comedy and zombies is right up my alley, but The Loneliest Boy In The World fails at taking me beyond its colorful set pieces to the heart of the story. Even the title using the word ‘boy’ infantilizes white men and it is past time that ends in film and life.

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