Length: 87 minutes
Director: William Brent Bell
Writer: Stacey Menear
Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Ray, and Oliver Rice.
Any review of Brahms: The Boy II must take into account its predecessor, The Boy. (Spoiler alert here, in case you didn’t watch The Boy.) The Boy was one of the most clever horror films of 2016 (read our review here), mainly because of its magnificent twist — that the supposedly haunted doll in the mansion wasn't haunted at all! It turned out that a boy who had grown up between the walls of the mansion had been manipulating objects and events to make it seem like the doll was haunted. And all throughout the film, the promotional materials, and even the film's classification, little hints are dropped about the true nature of the doll.
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This all made the announcement of the sequel, Brahms: The Boy II, so puzzling. The original worked so well because of the twist in the tale, so when spooky things happen in this sequel, you're pretty sure you know what's happening. Then it attempts to pull another twist which falls flat out on its face.
The supernatural horror movie revolves around an eerie lifelike doll, the titular Brahms, which is "adopted" by a boy who is suffering post-traumatic mutism. His mother soon discovers that strange things happen when Brahms is around, which is compounded by her son's refusal to speak. The entire family is plunged into danger as the mysterious events escalate in severity, and the family must discover Brahms' secret if they are to survive.
Brahms' “secret” is exactly what you think it is — which is a colossal retcon of the original film. In fact, it negates almost everything that happens in the prior movie, turning what was a brilliant plot into just some sort of freaky coincidence. But the thing is, you'd be going into this film expecting a twist on the same level as The Boy, or that the "hauntings" can be attributed to a similar reason. And when it doesn't, it commits a cardinal sin for a sequel.
It invalidates the first film.
As a result, the movie feels like it is a mad cash grab to ride on the popularity of haunted doll films like the Annabelle series or the recent Child’s Play remake. That wouldn't be a bad thing if the movie was a good standalone horror film, but it is, at best, mediocre. There are a couple of jump scares and Jude (Christoper Convery) has an intense and creepy glower for most of the film, but after the big reveal, it turns into some sort of weird fantasy-horror adventure show for the last act.
Nevertheless, the actual doll itself is absolutely creepy. The film does well to eke out every ounce of horror from the doll with its copious close-ups and lingering shots. You keep expecting the doll to come to life and attack you (as does tormented mother Liza (Katie Holmes) but the film keeps defying your expectations.
Yet with a distressingly unsatisfying revelation and a bout of sequel-itis plaguing the conclusion of the film (there will be another sequel), the film tarnishes the legacy of the original not only by rewriting the premise of the series, but also by setting up yet another haunted doll franchise that blew up its best feature, the twist of the first film.
Brahms: The Boy II is a so-so horror film, and a terrible sequel. If you watched The Boy, do yourself a favour and skip this one. The disappointment isn't worth satiating your curiosity about the continued "adventures" of Brahms the doll.
2 out of 5 stars
Singapore - 20 February
Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
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