A teenage boy’s mysterious disappearance from a local park leads his family and friends to contemplate supernatural influences.
Elizabeth Sanderson thinks nothing of letting her 13-year-old son, Tommy, sleep over at his friend Josh’s house, a common summer occurrence in the sleepy Boston suburb of Ames. But when Josh calls in the middle of the night, wondering if Tommy is back home, everything changes. Turns out Tommy, Josh, and their friend Luis snuck out, beers stuffed in backpacks, and headed for Borderland, the sprawling state park nearby, where Tommy ran off. Tremblay (A Head Full of Ghosts, 2015) makes it clear from the start that the half-truths Josh and Luis are peddling to their parents and the cops are barely that, but he’s not entirely successful at maintaining tension over Tommy’s ultimate fate. Elizabeth tries, somewhat unsuccessfully, to hold it together for her younger child, 11-year-old Kate, who becomes a virtual recluse in the wake of her brother’s disappearance. Though Elizabeth appears levelheaded, after she sees what she comes to believe is the ghost of her son crouching in her bedroom late one night, she becomes convinced that Tommy is dead. As the lives of the three boys prior to the fateful night take shape through flashbacks and somewhat clumsily inserted entries from Tommy's diary, which Elizabeth finds, the potential paranormal aspects—particularly the local mythology surrounding the boys’ hangout spot of Devil’s Rock—become almost as believable as the police investigation that’s grounded in reality.
Tremblay excels at atmospheric unease even if the story he’s spinning isn’t always as rich as its milieu.