Horror movies and sequels go hand in hand. Depending on the franchise (I'm looking at you, Saw, Friday The 13th and Halloween), there can be numerous avenues sequels can take, with varying degrees of quality. Horror movie or not, it’s usually better to let the dead rest, and such is the case with Brahms: The Boy II. Overdone jumps cares, poor performances and disregard of the original make Brahms: The Boy II a forlorn attempt at a sequel.
Brahms: The Boy II is the latest sequel to 2016’s The Boy, a film directed by William Brent Bell. (There are spoilers for The Boy here, but not for Brahms: The Boy II, so venture forth accordingly.) In The Boy, Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) works for the wealthy Heelshires, who have a supposedly haunted doll that must be cared for like a real person. Eventually, it’s revealed the doll isn’t actually haunted. Rather, it’s the once-thought dead Heelshire son, also named Brahms, who has been living in the walls and tormenting guests via the doll. In the end, Brahms is presumably killed, only later revealed to be piecing together his old destroyed doll.
In short, the supposedly haunted doll is not haunted. Brahms is just the toy of a crazy man child, also named Brahms, living in the walls.
Enter 2020’s Brahms: The Boy II. William Brent Bell is back as the director and so is that damn doll. Liza (Katie Holmes) lives a busy life in the city with her husband Sean (Owain Yeoman) and their son Jude (Christopher Convery). One night, when Sean is working late their family home is broken into by two masked men. Liza suffers a serious head wound while defending Jude, but survives. After the attack, Liza lives with frequent migraines and Jude takes a vow of silence communicating only with handwritten notes. Sean and Liza are both at odds with one another trying to get over the home invasion and Jude's silence. In search of a solution, they decide to spend some time in the country to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The trip starts off great, but as the family explores the woods, they discover the old Heelshire mansion abandoned. Shortly after, Jude comes across the Brahms doll buried deep in the woods. He quickly bonds with Brahms and even starts talking to him, but not his parents. From there, things start to get spooky as Jude insists they follow Brahms' rules or else.
Brahms: The Boy II is full of cheap, shallow scares.
Although there are a few creepy scenes, Brahms: The Boy II relies too heavily on telegraphed jump scares. Every ten minutes or so, like clockwork, there is some sort of knee jerk ‘boo!’, whether that comes from a dog, the doll or even Jude himself. After the first five of these scares or so, you get bored and can spot them coming from a mile away.
There is some redeemable horror here though. Any way you look at it, that doll is horrifying. It’s just too realistic that it heads into uncanny valley, which Director William Brent Bell uses to the film's advantage. There are subtle effects, such as the doll slowly smiling in the background, that really enhance the horror. However, they are used at every opportunity and become far too telegraphed, just like jump scares throughout the film.
Poor performances out of Christopher Convery and Owain Yoeman hurt Brahms: The Boy II.
In Brahms: The Boy II, the subtlety ends with the doll. Most of the performances from the cast are downright bad. On one end, there’s Christopher Convery, who doesn’t even speak for the majority of the film. Nearly all interactions with his character boil down to him writing ‘Brahms didn’t like that’ and then scowling at his parents. While creepy at first, this quickly gets old.
Then there is Sean, the father, played by Owain Yeoman. He puts on an exceptionally indifferent performance. His lines are delivered as nonchalantly as one would leave for a pack of smokes and never come back. You start to wonder if this guy really even cares about Jude or Liza, or just his work. He calls his son 'mate,' like he’s some old high school buddy. It’s jarring and odd to be honest.
Katie Holmes gives a serviceable performance as a traumatized mother. However, the real star of the show is Ralph Ineson, who plays Joseph the groundskeeper. He comes out of absolutely nowhere and gives a gravelly voiced performance reminiscent of his character in The Witch. It’s pretty good and one of the few redeemable aspects of Brahms: The Boy II.
Brahms: The Boy II takes everything that made the original special and throws it out the window.
The biggest issue with Brahms: The Boy II isn’t the cheap scares or the lackluster performances. The sequel takes everything that made The Boy special and throws it all out of the window. To take the approach that something supernatural was real all along is arguably just as creepy, if not more so. That’s why films like Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are so horrifying. These are real situations that could actually happen. The Boy was a bait and switch exercise that was amplified by the reveal of Brahms living in the wall. There was no supernatural element at all, the horror was in something real that appeared supernatural. That established plot is completely abandoned this time around.
Brahms: The Boy II is far too reliant on the supernatural to glaze over plot holes and render character motivations useless. It just feels like lazy writing and a detraction from its predecessor. The disregard for the magic of The Boy, poor performances and unoriginal scares ultimately make Brahms: The Boy II just another failed horror sequel.
Into tracksuits by Paulie Walnuts, the Criterion Channel and Robert Eggers.
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