After the tragic loss of his mother, Oliver is threatened with state custody unless he can find a new family. And so Oliver does just that… by digging one up at the local cemetery. He must now convince the social workers that he has found the perfect family – who just happen to be decomposing… A modern fairytale – with zombies.

This is a strange project to experience. Made in Wales with a British cast, it brings to life a very American movie with a script that was written in the late 80s that spent decades in development hell. Yet it works almost perfectly in what it sets out to achieve. Director Martin Owen has managed to carve out the perfect slice of 80s coming-of-age cinema with magical logic, resulting in something that feels like it was found at the back of an abandoned Blockbusters. 

The whole cast and crew made something special come to life here, across a limited amount of locations while also having filmed around COVID restrictions. The whole thing is remarkably seamless, especially given how wildly different Wales is from the feel of having something filmed around LA backroads some 40 years ago. Max Harwood makes for a still sympathetic protagonist despite being a character completely detached from reality, comedian Ben Miller is very out of type in the horror setting but clearly having a great time, and the standout here is Hero Fiennes Tiffin. While the whole point of Hero is that he is playing a supporting side character, he very easily steals every scene he is in. Even for a brief stint as an inanimate corpse. One very obvious animal cast member aside, the CG effects here are subtle and all built upon solid practical effects. For a film not too concerned about violence or horror action, there are some impressive gore effects at play for comedic effect. The soundtrack is also of particular note. It’s nearly unheard of for an indie horror movie to have this many licensed tracks, but it isn’t a waste of the limited budget: it helps establish the 80s setting and really sells it for more than just the nostalgic aesthetic.

While still impressive, and certainly a fun watch once it truly gets going, this is sadly not a film without flaws. It’s a very slow starter before it begins to engage the core premise, playing a bit too coy in setting up a fake out. A little too effective at pretending to be a cringe comedy, then going on to tease the fantastical elements may all be inside the main character’s head, before it finally gets to the good stuff and life lessons are being given by the undead. The stakes remain a touch too low throughout as well. Looking back after having finished The Loneliest Boy in the World, there were several opportunities for more dramatic turns that weren’t taken.

The final product felt like it landed short of perfection. What it is attempting, however, is something bold and fresh that aims high and still achieves a lot. It asks for trust from the audience as it takes its time setting up, but it will reward that commitment with layers of feel good moments that also bring some solid laughs. Ultimately as awkward as its shut in protagonist, it also manages to have that character’s heart of gold. The Loneliest Boy in the World is set for a US theatrical release next year, and for all it set out to accomplish but did not achieve, it is still tackled something that a lot of horror fans should be looking forward to in 2023. Catch it early on the festival circuit if you can, and make sure you get your ticket to see it on the big screen next year if not. This will be one film that many people will talk about fondly for quite some time to come.

We Watched The Loneliest Boy in the World as Part of the 2022 Grimmfest Line-up

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