Boy Kills World review: A wonderfully surreal mindmelt - SciFiNow

Boy Kills World review: A wonderfully surreal mindmelt

Moritz Mohr’s revenge flick conceals a home truth beneath brutal action and surreal comedy in a pure-genre dystopia

boy kills world

KThere is a moment – not the first – in Moritz Mohr’s Boy Kills World when its protagonist, the adult Boy (Bill Skarsgård), suggests that what he is witnessing with his own eyes “can’t be real”. It is an annual public ‘Culling’ of undesirables being televised live, with the executioners disguised as mascots from children’s cereal Frosty Puffs. Here state murder is fashioned as both a public spectacle and sponsored advertisement, in a future dystopian city of corporatised, dynastic oppression. The sequence is also a mise en abyme of the film itself, which likewise turns hyperviolence and human suffering into mass entertainment, with Boy’s own deep-seated trauma dressed up as palatable comedy.

Mohr’s whole film is a surreal mindmelt – a hallucinatory trip pieced together, with postmodern glee, from pre-existing paradigms. The Culling is like The Purge and The Hunger Games. Boy is deaf-mute – the result of torture imposed on him in his actual boyhood – but, unable to remember what his own voice once sounded like, has an inner voice expressly modelled on a character from his favourite arcade game, Super Dragon Punch Force, which also inspires the weightless VG-like quality of the film’s fight sequences.

Meanwhile that voice is actually furnished by H. Ron Benjamin who, though very much not a boy, is instantly recognisable as the hapless patriarch from the animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers, only adding to the cartoonish absurdity of everything on screen. Boy regularly converses with his little sister Mina (Quinn Copeland), who hasn’t aged or changed since he was separated from her decades ago. The fact that she alone can also hear, and replies to, the voice in Boy’s head confirms that she comes from the same place, and is an imaginary figment of his haunted memory. In a weird world focalised through Boy’s disturbed mental state and distorted, drugged-up, gaslit perception, nothing is reliable.

Brutally trained since childhood by the mysterious Shaman (Yayam Ruhian) in martial arts, Boy is on a driven path of vengeance against the ruling van der Koy family (Famke Janssen, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, Sharlto Copley) who he saw murdering his mother in a previous Culling – and this will lead to a series of bloody, bludgeoning fights that draw on The Raid (also starring Ruhian) and John Wick films.

Indeed Boy Kills World is set entirely in an artificial, illusory world built of pure genre, and is able to use its own very familiar action-revenge tropes (and considerable humour) to throw Boy and viewers alike off the scent of a more harrowing reality. A post-credits coda shows revenge being served cold, soggy, and barely satisfying, as the sweetness of Boy’s lost childhood proves irrecoverably soured. All at once bruising, bamboozllng and tragically belated, Boy’s coming of age into Manhood is also a traumatic disillusionment and a farewell forever to innocence.

Boy Kills World is only in UK and Irish cinemas April 26. Distributed by Signature Entertainment