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BUFF ’24 Movie Review: “BOY KILLS WORLD” Sure Lives Up To Its Name

Friday, March 29, 2024 | Review


Starring Bill Skarsgård, Famke Janssen and Jessica Rothe
Directed by Moritz Mohr
Written by Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers
Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

Ultraviolent and somewhat sappy, BOY KILLS WORLD is what we would get if Street Fighter came to life, was hellbent on revenge and was narrated by H. Jon Benjamin.

Before diving into the plot and that business, there needs to be a note on that narration. BOY KILLS WORLD premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2023; that version only had a limited voiceover by lead actor Bill Skarsgård. The film that screened at this month’s Boston Underground Film Festival had extensive, and frankly hilarious, narration by Benjamin as well as additional backstory for where that voice originated. This was confirmed by critics who attended TIFF and were able to corroborate these changes. Without wild speculation about how these alterations arose, they do appear to have been for the better.

That narration is incredibly important in BOY KILLS WORLD (which goes into general release April 26), as the central hero Boy (Skarsgård) is both deaf and mute. Living in a near-future dystopia, Boy has lost all his family at a young age and is raised by a shaman (Yayan Ruhian) who trains him to be a killer. That training sure will come in handy, as Boy is laser-focused on only one thing in his life: to kill Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen).

The Van Der Koy family rules this world, and Hilda is their leader. Her two siblings (Michelle Dockery and Brett Gelman) each play their part in the empire, but Hilda runs the show, and she herself killed Boy’s family. As they are a corporation turned ruling government, the dynamic here is closer to Succession or the Largo family in Repo! The Genetic Opera than The Hunger Games, but the thread of oppression and control remains. In a repetition of painful flashbacks, we see the traumatic incident, and it hammers home the reason Boy is so determined.

In the midst of Boy’s seemingly endless training montages, by chance he encounters the same annual executions that took his family from him, and he will not allow this opportunity to pass him by. He is ready to completely switch into a fearless killing machine.

Skarsgård gives an excellent physical performance here, but the narration and script do most of the heavy lifting to craft the character into a fully formed person. Benjamin’s delivery is in line with his classic shtick of part theatrical oration, part bumbling dry wit, and it pairs perfectly with Boy’s confused looks as he tries to lip-read his way toward vengeance. It is explained that the voice itself comes from a fighting video game he used to play as a child, and that characterization of the timbre makes sense in this context. BOY KILLS WORLD also leans heavily on the emotional flashbacks and personal haunting Boy deals with on a daily basis.

Beyond the politics and the emotions, BOY KILLS WORLD is an unapologetic bloodbath. Even producer Zainab Azizi admitted as she introduced the screening in Boston that she did not know the film’s exact total body count. As soon as Boy begins his fight to get to Hilda, not a single soldier in his path is safe. The camera tends to move fluidly throughout these fight sequences, pushing in close and then pulling out as the action moves or the blood spurts. It is never confusing what is happening where, though it could have benefitted from a few wider angles to get a better grasp on the scope and direction of the mayhem.

Overall, the film looks beautiful and savage, combining humor with trauma. Even with all of the character exposition and layered, familiar plot, BOY KILLS WORLD is style over substance. There are plenty of reasons why everything is happening, but they do not always work well or feel necessary. The balance between all of the elements teeters from time to time, but seems to be less of an issue when the film remembers the character’s and audience’s thirst for blood.

BOY KILLS WORLD punches and slices its way through an occasional murky plot, and comes out a bloodsoaked winner.


Deirdre is a Chicago-based film critic and life-long horror fan. In addition to writing for RUE MORGUE, she also contributes to C-Ville Weekly,, and belongs to the Chicago Film Critics Association. She's got two black cats and wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero.