DIRECTOR: WILLIAM BRENT BELL | SCREENPLAY: STACEY MENEAR | STARRING: KATIE HOLMES, RALPH INESON, OWAIN YEOMAN, CHRISTOPHER CONVERY | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Let's be quite honest, The Boy – 2016's William Brent Bell-directed Stacey Menear-written horror film – was not good. It was an hour and a half of standard haunted house plotting, which was only redeemed by the absolutely batty reveal and final act. Were it not for its ending, the film would've likely died a slow, quiet death, mourned by no one. Thanks to that crazy pants ending, however, the movie garnered itself quite a following, and the final shot certainly left things open for a sequel – hence, Brahms: The Boy II, once again directed by Bell and written by Minear. Was it something for which fans were clamouring? Not particularly, but it's out now, for some reason.
As is the case with sequels such as this, the film doesn't feature characters from the original, but instead sees a new family coming to deal with the doll from the first. It's very much in line with the Amityville' cursed' sequels, wherein elements of the Long Island home kept finding their way into the lives of families all over the country, long after the Lutzes vacated the premises. So, after Liza (Holmes) and her son, Jude (Convery) are injured both mentally and physically during an invasion of their London home, they – along with husband and father, Sean (Yeoman) – take a vacation to the countryside to recover. Of course, the house in which they are staying is revealed to be the guest house of the Heelshires' mansion from the original film. The now-mute Jude discovers a buried Brahms during a walk in the woods, and the creepiness begins. Also beginning is a massive ret-con of the entire first film. Apologies for spoilers, but the original revealed that the doll wasn't haunted, but that the son of the Heelshires had survived an accident long ago and was living within the walls of their home, causing terror and mischief. Here, Brahms is definitively shown to be a possessed doll – eyes moving, head-turning, the whole megillah.
Now, for a lengthy portion of the movie, one might think that because Liza suffered such a devastating head injury, this might all be some kind of hallucinatory behaviour on her part, a la The Babadook, wherein one's not quite sure until the very end as to whether the mother is going mad or there's actually some evil in their home. However, Brahms chooses to go on to become some unholy combination of The Babadook and Annabelle, while never really maintaining any semblance of terror or tension. It's so winky-noddy in its reveals that there's never a moment of actual, earned tension. While the audience should be on the edge of their seats, wondering, "Is it really happening? What's going on?", the actual reaction is to wonder whether or not the concessions are still open and consider another bag of popcorn.
While the original film was certainly not without its issues, the Heelshires were beyond discomfiting as characters, and babysitter Greta had some minor development. Everyone here, however, is flat, disaffected, and might as well have been generated by an algorithm. They are beyond bland, and even a scenery-chewing stint by Ralph Ineson as groundskeeper Joseph fails to elicit any sort of reaction. It's a bad, boring, utterly pointless sequel which isn't even fun enough to overcome its flaws, which are legion.