The awkwardly titled, Brahms: The Boy 2, sees the the original movie’s director, William Brent Bell, returning to the antics of the off-putting creepy doll known as Brahms. This time with an all new cast of characters to be terrorized by the pale figurine’s mischievousness. But while the first Boy movie managed memorability thanks to its rambunctious twist ending, the sequel commits the crucial sin of being, quite simply, boring.
After a vicious home invasion attack on Liza (Katie Holmes) and son Jude (Christopher Convery) while her husband (Owain Yeoman) was away, the family decides to leave behind the wounds from the city and move into a secluded mansion in the woods. Jude’s mental shock from the assault has left him mute, but when he finds Brahms the doll buried in the land near their new home, Liza can’t shake the feeling of a sinister influence from her son’s new playmate. Are the peculiar happenings around the house a result of Jude acting out his psychological stress or is there a spiritual malevolence within Brahms?
Bell demonstrates moments of legitimate talent behind the camera here with some genuinely well produced shots throughout. The opening home invasion sequence starts by building tension with the ominous shadow of a burglar under the transparent stairs that an unaware Holmes walks down. The lighting plays an affective roll and the boxlike structure of the family’s swank apartment showcases the claustrophobic trauma their city living leaves them with. And the closeup shot (as seen in the trailer) of Brahms and Jude’s faces while the doll and the boy meet for the first time is an intriguing reflection of the blank slate that Jude’s traumatic encounter has left in him.
Unfortunately, all the camera pizzazz in the world couldn’t save the fact that the plot stays mind numbingly stagnant, almost stubbornly so, as if it feels insecure in stepping out of its overdone genre trappings. It meanders while hitting all the familiar beats and delivers no shortage of jump scaring. A horror movie can get away with a handful of standard jump scare fare, but not only does Brahms deliver way too many, it makes them its bread and butter. And it does this all while pulling the phew, it was just a bad dream card all too often, to the point of being a fall back from building any real tension or stakes. These dream sequences are mostly made to emphasize Liza’s mental anguish from her survived home invasion encounter, but it gets to a point of hitting them over the audience’s head to fill a runtime and check some conventional scare boxes.
Buried beneath the saturated mundaneness lies a stimulating seed about a mother’s insecurity for being unable to protect her son and the harbored guilt she bares in being responsible for his mental damage. But not only does the fruitless script keep this idea from growing, the dull casting provides little assistance as well. Katie Holmes delivers all that you might expect out of her, but she’s also never given a proper moment of emotional confrontation to let the audience form a real connection to her inner turmoil. Christopher Conveyer as young Jude portrays a numbingly banal version of horror’s latest creepy child. Ralph Ineson shows up as an offbeat groundskeeper. His energetic performance, especially in the final act, is a curious one to say the least. A miss for his talent given his much more effectively withheld work as the father in 2015’s The Witch. But it doesn’t help that the character he’s playing here is one of the most by the numbers versions of eccentric exposition guy for family in haunted house.
Any hope that the climax can make this humdrum by-product of every other scary doll movie worth the watch is shot down with a substantial letdown of an ending. The way the evil of the nefarious Brahms is overcome feels less like an insightful challenge for the characters and more like an excuse to end the tedious endeavor as quick as can be. At this point, a sincere confrontation is in order for a mother and her child, but little weight is held in their moment while little Jude’s face is covered in a Brahms-like mask. It all amounts to stuffy lifelessness.
This one just hit theaters this weekend. Check it out if you want to see the psychological horror from the first movie completely undone with no subtlety whatsoever, Katie Holmes throw burning candle wax at a weird guy’s face, identical matching clothing on a little boy and his doll and the gruesome outcome when a dog thinks it can fuck with Brahms.