When a young family moves to the Heelshire’s residence, terror strikes when a boy from the family named Jude (Christopher Convery) discovers a doll called Brahms that appears to be eerily human.
So far, in the year 2020, we have been cursed with quite a number of horrible horror films. In the first week of January, Nicolas Pesce released his new vision for The Grudge, which was a painfully contrived and bland reboot. Then, we got Floria Sigismondi’s feature adaptation of the classic novel The Turn of the Screw in the form of The Turning, which turned out to be a massive disappointment. If that wasn’t bad enough, just this past week, Blumhouse Productions released their worst movie since Truth or Dare, a horror film version of the beloved television series Fantasy Island.
But, out of all the early year horror movie releases, William Brent Bell’s Brahms: The Boy II, was one of the films that had the most potential to be great, despite having a ridiculous title. A few years ago, Bell helmed the previous installment in the franchise, The Boy, which was met with mainly mixed reviews from both critics and audiences alike.
There were some that thought the film was delightfully creepy and a welcome surprise release for the month of January, which is widely regarded as the month where movies go to die. But, there were also some people (myself included) that thought The Boy was a missed opportunity for the most part.
The whole “evil doll comes to life and starts to kill innocent people” idea is nothing new. Far from it, in fact. One of the most beloved horror franchises is that of the Child’s Play or Chucky franchise. Throughout the decades, many generations have been creeped out by the Brad Dourif and now Mark Hamill voiced doll, and it seems like the franchise will not be going anywhere soon.
But viewers that are looking for a little bit more originality with the creepy doll movies have not had much luck in recent years. With that being said though, the original Boy did have its moments where it shined, namely, its twist ending that took plenty of people by surprise. Does it make a lot of sense when you think about it in retrospect to the rest of the film? Not really. In fact, it is a little bit goofy. But it was certainly a shocking ending and set up a sequel that could be incredibly interesting. Bell’s original film paved the way for a follow-up with plenty to explore and expand upon.
Whether you expected this to be good or not, there is some bad news. Not only is Brahms: The Boy II not a worthy sequel to an otherwise mediocre film, but it is far worse than its predecessor and the worst horror movie of the year thus far.
Weak jump scares and painfully boring and long drawn out sequences are the least of this movie’s problems. Yes, the endless string of jump scares was extremely tiring. There are few things that people hate more than jump scares, and this film is riddled with them. To make matters worse, they are “false jump scares”. Instead of the jump scare consisting of something actually creepy like a figure popping out of a corner, it is always something incredibly ridiculous such as the main child Jude sneaking up behind his mom and scaring her.
Additionally, yes, it’s immensely boring. Even with a running time of only eighty-six minutes, the film feels remarkably longer due to there being no real meat on this screenplay. This absolutely feels like a first draft in every way. You know there’s a problem with your film when the scariest thing that happens in it is a doll moving its eyes around. A movie with a running time of less than ninety minutes including credits does not have anywhere to go really. It takes about thirty to thirty-five minutes for anything remotely creepy to occur in Brahms: The Boy II. The scenes that play out beforehand are extremely bland and lifeless.
Something else that was greatly frustrating here was the characters. They have next to nothing for development. In the original film, my favorite aspect of the entire thing was Lauren Cohan as Greta Evans. Not only did she deliver an emotionally raw and riveting performance, but her character was one that was impressively fleshed out. We were given a good reason to care for her and her plight. Whenever she got herself tied up in a sticky situation, it was easy to root for her. With this sequel, the characters get nothing to do. They all have one little personality trait on display and that’s it. Jude’s character is there to be Brahms’ best friend. Throughout the movie, he is seen giving him food, doing homework while Brahms watches, and gets mad whenever his parents tell him to cut it out. That’s literally the extent of Jude’s character, and it was frustrating.
Speaking of his parents, they get just as little to do here as well. In fact, they get even less. Liza, Jude’s mother, worries throughout the entire movie and that’s it. Something creepy happens in the house, and she expresses concern. The same thing goes for her husband and Jude’s father Sean (Owain Yeoman). Seeing this highly talented cast of actors get absolutely nothing to do in terms of a character point of view was frustrating and maddening. But it also makes me think why these actors accepted roles in this film in the first place.
There is nothing even impressive on a technical scale here either. It’s not as if the cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub is bad or anything, but it most certainly is nothing remarkable or anything like that. There is not a single shot in the entire film that is going to stick with me. It’s all extremely generic and surface-level stuff. Even the score by Brett Detar is average, and the editing on display by Brian Berdan is genuinely jarring in numerous scenes, with a lot of poorly done slow-motion sequences incorporated.
All of those massive issues aside though, the other humongous problem with Brahms: The Boy II is the fact that it acts as if the first movie doesn’t even exist. Yes, you heard me right. If you absolutely adored that first film, you’re more than likely going to hate this movie and be massively let down.
The ending of the predecessor was greatly promising and set up a potential franchise that had a lot of areas to explore. Spoiler alert for the original film if you haven’t seen it yet. Throughout the running time, Lauren Cohan’s Greta is seeing terribly weird things going on around the manor. She feels like she is being watched and it seems to her like the doll Brahms could possibly be alive and moving around. At the climax of the film, after the doll is shattered in pieces, it is revealed that the real human boy Brahms, who was thought to be dead many years ago, is actually very much so alive and has been living in the walls of the Heelshire Manor the whole time. He was the person that was moving around the house at night and he was able to watch Greta via the Brahms doll.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of problems that arise with that twist ending, especially if you have seen the film, you’d know that there are some things regarding that twist that just don’t make a lot of sense. But on the other hand, it brilliantly sets up a potential franchise where we could follow the grown-up Brahms as he tries to find new victims to torment as they go into the Heelshire Manor.
In Brahms: The Boy II, they basically retcon the entire ending of the previous entry. As said, at the finale of the original, we learn that an adult man named Brahms was the one that was responsible for all the creepy things that happened throughout the entire movie. He’s the one that was able to move the doll around because whenever Greta was not looking, he would go and move the doll to another room.
Within the first thirty minutes of this follow-up, we see the doll’s eyes move around and witness his body move around all on his own. The big question that viewers had on their mind while watching the first movie was “Is the doll possessed? Or is something else at play?”. The answer? Something else was at play. A grown man was responsible for moving the doll. Here, they pretend like that is not true. What’s also incredibly shocking about this massive retcon is the fact that this sequel is penned by the same screenwriter of the first, and is directed by Bell, who also helmed the first. Why they would retcon the biggest twist of the original movie is beyond me. It’s actually a massive disappointment and is going to anger anybody that loved that twist ending.
Watching a movie like this is tiring. Not just because it is a drastically weak movie with poor writing, character development, scares, etc. But because, while watching it, you can see all of the things that they could have changed to make it significantly better. One can only hope that horror movies will improve sometime soon in the year because right now, it is not a great time to be a fan of the genre.
Brahms: The Boy II is a colossal disappointment due to its severely dull screenplay and awful character development, weak scares, and its disregarding of the original.
Overall Grade: F
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, violence, disturbing images and thematic elements
Directed by: William Brent Bell
Distributed by: STX Entertainment
Release Date: February 21, 2020 (United States)
Running Time: 86 minutes