21st Feb2020

‘Brahms: The Boy II’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Jay, Oliver Rice, Natalie Moon, Daphne Hoskins, Joely Collins | Written by Stacey Menear | Directed by William Brent Bell

brahms-boy-2-poster

Katie Holmes stars in this sequel to 2016′s little-seen creepy doll horror The Boy. It’s directed by William Brent Bell, who clearly has an affinity for this sort of thing, because in addition to helming the original film, he’s just signed on to direct Esther, a prequel to 2009′s superficially similar Orphan.

Brahms begins with a poorly staged prologue in which Liza (Holmes) and her young son Jude (Christopher Convery) are traumatised by a home invasion. The attack leaves Jude unable to speak, so Liza and husband Sean (Owain Yeoman) decide to get away from it all and holiday in the guest house of a mansion in the north of England. They’re there all of five minutes before Jude finds a creepy doll buried in the woods, complete with a tiny coffin, an entire wardrobe’s worth of clothes and a written set of rules.

Jude quickly forms a strong attachment to the doll, who he insists is named Brahms. Initially, Liza and Sean are quite rightly creeped out by the porcelain-faced monstrosity, but when they realise that Jude is speaking to the doll in private, they decide to let him keep it, because it’s helping his recovery. However, Jude’s behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing and Liza soon starts to suspect that there might be more to Brahms than meets the eye.

Holmes is extremely solid in the lead, delivering a performance that is probably better than the film deserves. In particular, she gives Liza an effective fragility, even if the film never really exploits that quality. Convery is equally good, striking a nice balance between creepy and cute, while Ralph Ineson is good value as the groundskeeper who knows more than he’s letting on.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Owain Yeoman, who’s so bland that you frequently forget he’s even in the film. Still, at least he fares better than a handful of other supporting characters who are wheeled on late in the game, just so that one of them can get injured in what should have been a much bigger moment. (All four of them disappear from the film immediately afterwards and are never mentioned again).

The main problem with Brahms: The Boy II is that the script has a handful of promising ideas – such as the fact that Jude actually gets better as a result of his interaction with the doll, or the suggestion that Liza might be going mad – but refuses to explore them in any depth. That results in a total lack of tension, meaning the film is dull for long stretches, even within its mercifully short 86 minute running time.

There are a number of other frustrating elements too. For example, Brahms: The Boy II‘ list of rules (a feature of the first film) is an idea that’s ripe with potential, but it’s all but ignored here, other than inspiring the creepy doll equivalent of a meal-time tantrum.

In fairness, the doll itself is suitably creepy (it could certainly give Annabelle a run for her money) and there are a handful of unsettling moments, but nothing that will really stay with you. It’s also undermined by a disappointing climax.

Ultimately, Brahms: The Boy II remains watchable thanks to its inherently creepy premise, but it’s nowhere near as much fun as it should have been. Indeed, it’s the sort of film where you find yourself thinking of multiple ways they could have made it scarier while you’re watching it. A wasted opportunity.

** 2/5

Brahms: The Boy II is in cinemas now.

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