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‘Brahms: The Boy II’ will put you to sleep

February 26, 2020
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Fun fact: I really enjoy going to see sequels to movies I never saw in the first place.

Now, I’ve been reviewing films for over a decade, so the opportunity to do so has become an increasingly rare thing. Hence, when it comes along, I eagerly embrace it – even if (or perhaps especially) when the reason I never saw the initial offering is because of how terrible I perceived it to be.

So let’s talk about “Brahms: The Boy II.” Serving as a sequel to 2016’s “The Boy,” this new film – directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Menear, returning to their respective roles from the first film – is an effort to expand upon the creepy doll mythos established the last time out.

You might think it would be difficult to follow “The Boy II” without having seen the first film. Rest assured, it is not. There’s nothing difficult about following this story because, well … there’s not really much in the way of story. It’s a slow-moving slog of a story where very little happens; it’s your standard atmospheric horror, only there’s no real atmosphere to speak of. Even the efforts to tie in to the first film are perfunctory.

Basically, I can say with all confidence that you do not need to see the first film to watch this one. In fact, I would advise against it. Actually – I’d advise against seeing either one.

Liza (Katie Holmes, “Coda”) lives in London with her workaholic husband Sean (Owain Yeoman, TV’s “Emergence”) and their young prank-loving son Jude (Christopher Convery, “By Dawn”). All in all, it’s a very happy scene. That is, until one fateful night, when Sean is out of town on business. There’s a home invasion – one that results in Liza being badly hurt and Jude being terrified.

Months later, when the physical wounds have healed, Liza is still struggling with terrible dreams and flashbacks. Meanwhile, Jude has retreated into silence, having spoken nary a word aloud since that night, communicating by writing on a notepad.

In an effort to get their lives back in order, the family decides to get out of the city. They rent a house in the country, a restored guest house on the property of a once-thriving estate. All three are thrilled with the new arrangement, each of them eager for the possibility of a fresh start.

Things go sideways when, while on a walk in the woods, Jude is mysteriously drawn to a spot where, upon digging, he uncovers an old-fashioned doll. He uncovers it and brings it home; despite some misgivings, Liza and Sean decide to let him keep it. Initially, the doll – whose name is Brahms (it told Jude its name) – seems to be helping Jude to deal with his trauma.

However, it soon becomes clear that not all is as it seems with Brahms. Liza begins to suspect that there is something darker and more sinister at hand; it doesn’t help that the estate’s groundskeeper Joseph (Ralph Ineson, “Dolittle”) keeps popping up and behaving in a decidedly weird manner. Jude’s insistence upon following the detailed rules set forth by Brahms grows more strident and more harmful, leaving the family to try and determine just what is going on – and whether they can stop it before it is too late.

Again, I can’t relate “Brahms” to its predecessor in any real way, but I have difficulty imagining it would have warranted a sequel if it achieved anything like the staggering level of dullness put forth by this film. There has been a spate of recent movies that managed to be interminable despite sub-90-minute runtimes; this one is as boring and padded as the worst of them.

Please understand: I don’t need my horror movies to be gory bloodbaths or non-stop tension generators. I recognize the value of subtlety playing out at a slower pace. But for that brand of horror filmmaking to work, the execution has to be a hell of a lot better than what we get from “Brahms.” There’s an overriding lack of energy throughout; even the most ostensibly scary moments are undermined by a complete lack of urgency. I used the term “perfunctory” to describe the film’s efforts to relate to the first movie, but it could really serve as a one-word review of the entire thing.

While the lion’s share of the blame should be shouldered by Bell and Menear, the cast certainly doesn’t bring much to the table either. Holmes seems disconnected and vaguely confused by what’s going on around her; there’s so little about the performance that feels the least bit genuine. Yeoman comes off as wooden and disengaged, though it’s hard to say how much of that was a deliberate choice. The kid is actually OK – the script doesn’t do Convery any favors, but he’s about the only one here generating any actual creepiness. Ineson is suitably off-putting and unsettling, albeit in a manner that probably telegraphs a bit too much with regards to plot development (such as it is).

“Brahms: The Boy II” simply doesn’t work, an uninteresting and uninspired offering that is absent of scares. It’s no lullaby, but it will still put you to sleep.

[1 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 February 2020 07:58

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