Brahms: The Boy II
2020, PG-13, 86 min. Directed by William Brent Bell. Starring Katie Holmes, Christopher Convery, Owain Yeoman, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Jay, Oliver Rice, Natalie Moon, Daphne Hoskins, Joely Collins.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 28, 2020
Quoth the other, more bewhiskered and musically inclined Brahms, “The only true immortality lies in one’s children.” Oh, Johannes, if only you knew. You would weep. Director Bell and writer Stacey Menear return with what can only be referred to as the bastard offspring of their 2016 goosepimpler The Boy and one can but pray that this isn’t the commencement of some sort of Three Bs PG-13 horror franchise – Ludvig: The Boy’s Naughty Friend, J. Sebastian: Bachstrasse Boy, and so on.
Bell’s original story of a weirdly lifelike mannequin child-thing and the nanny hired to care for it got by on gothy atmospherics and the impressively depressive camerawork of director of photography Daniel Pearl, a UT alum and, more importantly, cameraman on Tobe Hooper’s seminal The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Unfortunately, Brahms: The Boy II boasts precious little of the prior film’s crepuscular charms, instead opting to obliviate that film’s seemingly final third act in order to ... ah, well, perpetuate a nascent and financially feasible franchise, I highly suspect. It doesn’t work, however, and the end result is one long yawn of mediocrity, devoid of any genuine suspense, hobbled by incoherent plotting, and ending on a note of goofy what-the-fuckery.
For what it’s worth, Brahms’ storyline follows husband and wife Liza (Holmes) and Sean (Yeoman) who, along with their young son Jude (Convery), move to a country house following a home invasion that leaves the boy so traumatized that he goes mute, preferring instead to communicate via sketchpad. It turns out the home this emotionally fractured family has retreated to is actually the guest house of the original film’s Victorian manse. Soon enough Jude uncovers the doll Brahms buried in the woods nearby, brings the grimy little homunculus home, and begins talking to it. Mom and Dad at first view this development as possible post-traumatic psychological progress, but when their son starts dressing just like his little friend and off-kilter jump-scares manifest in droves it rapidly becomes clear that evil is afoot. Or maybe madness, on Liza’s part, as she begins to suspect the sinister figurine is alive and kicking, unlike the movie itself.
There’s an amusing cameo by Ralph Ineson (the father in Robert Eggers’ infinitely more unnerving The Witch) as the ominous resident groundskeeper but ultimately both Brahms the doll and Brahms: The Boy II are dulled echoes of earlier, spookier offerings in the hoary yet effective Evil Doll subgenre. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You can’t beat the full-on creepout of Alberto Cavalcanti’s “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” segment of 1946 UK classic Dead of Night. Go. Now. Rent.)