Why do studios make sequels? The cynical among us, who have sat through too many sucky seconds in a series say it’s a cheap and easy way for the studios to cash in: if it sold once, it will sell again. Why else was Exorcist II: The Heretic made?
Then there are those rare sequels that rise about the money-making mentality of the studios because there is actually something new to tell or at least a new way to continue the story that started in the original movie. The Godfather: Part II is held up as the gold standard for sequels, but look at the Child’s Play series. Each film in that series was unique, entertaining and added to the mythos of Chuckie the knife-wielding doll. That theory doesn’t hold for last year’s abysmal reboot of the franchise, but that’s a different review altogether.
The point is that sequels either add something to a story or take away something from your wallet. And if that’s the case, then the makers of Brahms: The Boy II should be locked up for a long time.
The Boy, released in 2016, told the story of a creepy old couple who hired a young girl to babysit their son, Brahms, while they went on vacation. The son, it turns out, was a creepy doll and their vacation was a trip to the seaside to fulfill a mutual suicide pact they made because their ‘son’ was driving them crazy. It was a weird story, especially when the babysitter started treating the doll-like it was alive, but the ending spiraled out of control when it was revealed that the doll was really just a doll and all the weird stuff that was happening was being done by the grown-up son of the couple who lived in a hidden room in the house. It wrapped up with the girl killing the grown-up son and the doll gets smashed to bits. A coda tucked in with the credits at the end showed a mysterious figure putting the doll pieces back together, but it felt tacked on as if the producers were hoping the bottom line pointed towards another Boy movie, although it’s doubtful audiences left in breathless anticipation of what would happen next.
Four years later, he’s back in Brahm’s: The Boy II, Directed by William Brent Bell from a screenplay by Stacey Menear, the team who brought The Boy to life, Brahm’s: The Boy II doesn’t pick up where the first movie ended, but begins with a happy family living their big city dream like nothing bad could ever happen to them. Sure, the son, Jude (Christopher Convery) is a little creepy and likes to pull pranks to scare his mom, and dad (Owain Yeoman) is away a lot working late at the office, but the mom, Liza, is played by Katey Holmes and she’s enough to make you think your money for the ticket wasn’t totally wasted.
Then there is a home invasion where mom gets knocked out while Jude looks on. It’s a PG-13 movie, so we aren’t shown much, but the attack is brutal enough to give Liza recurring nightmares and Jude to shut down so completely he stops speaking and only communicates through words and images in a notebook. Convinced that a trip to the country will solve their problems, the family rents the guest house of the estate where The Boy took place and it isn’t too long before Jude and Brahms meet and become best psycho buddies. Since the original Brahms, at least the human one, was killed in the first movie, the ‘twist’ this time is that Brahms really is a possessed devil doll (Liza looks it up on the internet so it has to be true). What follows is the same generic creepy doll stuff that has become so ubiquitous in horror these days it practically has its own subgenre. Unlike some creepy genre dolls, Annabelle for example, Brahms actually moves from time to time but never in a way that’s either scary or even interesting. Like in the original movie, Bell tries to use all the directorial tricks in his limited arsenal to make you jump — a sudden burst of loud music, or at least a loud discordant musical chord, being his particular favorite — but to no avail. Brahms: The Boy II quickly turns into a waiting game. Waiting for it to end.
And yet, there is a bright note…or at least a less dim one…at the end of Brahms: The Boy II. There is a scene at the end show in the mansion’s furnace room that is so different, and potentially so good, that it feels like an insert from another movie. It’s the moment when Brahms reveals his true nature and Liza lets her inner momma bear take over. It’s interesting and exciting, but it’s also too little, too late. And it’s followed by just enough of a hint at a Boy III to ruin the moment completely.
- John Black, Brahms: The Boy II