While Sean (Owain Yeoman) was working late on a project, his wife Liza (Katie Holmes) and son Jude (Christopher Convery) are attacked in their London flat during a home invasion. Liza suffers a concussion and Jude is so traumatized he stops speaking, communicating by writing message on a pad he wears around his neck. The family decides they need to take a break from the city and rent a guest house on the Heelshire property. The Heelshire home has been vacant since the murders that took place there a few years earlier. A speculator bought the house and attempted to turn it into luxury condos, but various delays caused him to abandon the project. While the family is strolling through the woods, Jude is drawn away from his parents toward a patch of ground with a porcelain hand sticking up from the dirt. Digging in the soft ground, Jude finds an antique doll that he calls Brahms. Liza cleans up Brahms and he becomes Jude’s constant companion. During another walk with Liza, Jude finds a box with clothes for the doll. They also meet Joseph (Ralph Ineson) and his dog, a German Sheppard named Oz. Joseph describes himself as a caretaker of the grounds. Oz growls at Brahms and Jude. Strange events occur in the vacation home with a TV turning itself on, unexplained footsteps and voices, and Liza’s nightmares involving Brahms. Is there more to this doll than just a creepy dead stare?
“Brahms: The Boy 2” is a sequel to the financially successful but critically derided “The Boy” from 2016. Both films heavily feature a lifelike antique doll and the odd events that occur in its vicinity. I hadn’t seen “The Boy” prior to its sequel, but out of curiosity, I rented it after I watched the follow up. While both films share the same director and writer, I was shocked at how the creative team seemed to have forgotten what happened in the first film while making the second. And aside from that, the sequel is painfully dull and doesn’t follow its own rules.
“Brahms: The Boy 2” implies the child of the married couple is already a little twisted before meeting the doll as he enjoys scaring his mother. In the opening scene, Katie Holmes’ Liza walks in their home and Jude can be seen in the openings between the stairs. It’s that classic horror movie scene where the victim walks in the room and the villain is slightly out of focus in the background, then walks out of the shot. In this instance, this sets up Jude frightening his mother, something he was taught to do by his father. Jude takes an abundance of joy in scaring his mother and that’s supposed to set up the audience for what’s to come. However, the film doesn’t work that hard to frighten us for the rest of the scant 86-minute run time. The only other time the audience might feel a surge of adrenalin is when Joseph’s dog barks when we meet he and Oz for the first time. No other moment in the film comes close to providing any sort of thrill after that.
Precious little happens in “Brahms: The Boy 2.” After the home invasion in the opening minutes and a child being impaled on a sharp stick midway or so, there isn’t much going on in the film. Katie Holmes struggles mightily to look concerned, confused and frightened by all the nothingness going on around her. It’s a losing battle. Holmes and the rest of the cast are trying to swim upstream with both hands and one leg tied behind their backs. All they can do is flop around as artistically as possible. It’s not pretty to watch.
If you haven’t seen “The Boy” and plan to, you will want to skip this paragraph as there will be spoilers for the 2016 original. You’ve been warned. Ready?
In the final act of “The Boy,” we learn Brahms, the actual child of the Heelshires, survived the fire that was thought to have killed him and was living in the walls of the home wearing a porcelain mask similar to the doll. Actions that appeared to be done by the doll, or a spirit living in the doll, were done by the now nearly 30-year-old Brahms. There was nothing supernatural about the strange events. In “Brahms: The Boy 2,” the living Brahms is nowhere to be found and everything happening around the doll may be supernatural. Scenes from the first film are repurposed for the sequel while also retconning the story to make it fit. The way this film ends it makes it appear there is something else that channels the otherworldly forces at work. The film’s writer, Stacey Menear, apparently doesn’t mind changing or ignoring the rules of her own creation for the sake of expediency. Retconning is common in long-running genre franchises. Major and minor tweaks to the history of “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and the “X-Men” franchises don’t seem to have hurt the desire of audiences to keep watching their favorite characters. Sometimes there is online fanboy outrage, but people keep buying tickets and the world keeps turning. However, when you are only two films into what is hoped to be an ongoing series, you can’t be taking an eraser to your too brief history.
“Brahms: The Boy 2” is rated PG-13 for terror, violence, disturbing images and thematic elements. Terror, not so much. We see hot candle wax thrown in a character’s face. A character is hit in the head with the butt of a shotgun. A woman is attacked in her home by two masked men. She fights back but is struck in the head and knocked unconscious. We see a boy bullying Jude about his mental issues after the attack. A child is shown impaled on a sharp stick. The carcass of a dead animal is shown in the forest. Disturbing images are shown in Liza’s dreams.
Maybe the writer was out of ideas. Maybe the deadline crept up and the creative team played word association games to get the script done (the release date was moved back twice). Maybe the studio wanted to get another inexpensive film in the same universe out in theaters hoping no one would care it wasn’t very good. “Brahms: The Boy 2” is worse than not very good, it’s boring. It’s less than 90 minutes long but feels like more than two hours. I give a film the benefit of the doubt if I get the impression the makers actually tried, but this pitiful sequel feels like those in charge gave up and slapped some scenes together so they could move on to the next project. They fulfilled their contractual obligations, cashed their checks and the audience be damned. I know movies are mostly about making money, but they should also be about not insulting the paying audience. On that front, the makers of “Brahms: The Boy 2” failed miserably.
“Brahms: The Boy 2” gets one dim star out of five.
Only one new film is opening in wide release this week, but there some interesting arthouse films that I might need to see as well. I’ll review at least one of the following:
The Invisible Man—
Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.