Runtime: 86 Minutes
Director: William Brent Bell
Writer: Stacey Menear
Stars: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery
By Mique Watson
If you’ve seen 2016’s “The Boy”–one of the more peculiar entries to the horror genre as of late–you’d, like me, be trying to decipher how on earth a sequel could ever come to exist. Upon learning about this project, I found myself in a state of utter bewilderment. The first film ends with a twist so unexpected it overturned the entire storyline that had preceded it…and then it ended. So, how on earth did screenwriter Stacey Menear and director William Brent Bell plan on presenting a sequel that would not result in us, the audience, anticipating an already known reveal?
For those of you who haven’t seen the first film, you may want to skip this paragraph. 2016’s “The Boy” ends with the Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan learning that Brahms (the doll she had been caring for the whole time; who we were all led to believe was possessed by a supernatural force akin to Annabelle) was, in fact, just a doll. The real Brahms happened to be hiding in the walls of the house the entire time. The big reveal is that Brahms had survived the fire, was hidden in the house by his loving albeit psychotic and antagonistic parents, and that Cohan’s character was to be his to own.
Here, Cohan has been replaced with Katie Holmes. The film opens up with a burglary-gone-wrong, which leaves Liza (Holmes) and her young son Jude (Christopher Convery) traumatized. Jude, however, suffers the brunt of the trauma and is rendered mute. A child psychologist tells Liza that in order to help Jude, she first must help herself–as such, she and husband Sean (Owain Yeoman) agree that a change of pace and scene is the best possible solution. They choose to settle at a guest house in a small town near an abandoned mansion…the same one the first film was set in, which neither spouse happened to first Google. Introverted, shy, and friendless Jude then finds Brahms, buried in the woods–I’m sure you know the rest.
Cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub ensures that the picture radiates some deliciously uneasy style and mood. He creates an unsettling vibe that–for the most part–is deeply immersive, I was on-board for quite a long time.
This sets off a series of admittedly tired and silly clichés: Liza witnessing Jude behaving strangely, things going bump in the night, objects being misplaced, and Brahms at the centre of it. What’s fascinating here, is Liza’s reluctance to question Jude–and in the few instances she does–she shows restraint and second-guesses herself. This reluctance can be attributed to the hallucinations and nightmares she’s been haunted by since the burglary. Holmes imbues Liza with just the right mix of fear and doubt–she’s game, as are the other players in front of the camera–yet fine performances alone a worthwhile film does not make.
Many interesting tangents–from the gaslighting of women to the perversion of innocent youth by malevolent forces, both real and supernatural–are touched upon, but never satisfyingly explored.
Cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub ensures that the picture radiates some deliciously uneasy style and mood. He creates an unsettling vibe that–for the most part–is deeply immersive, I was on-board for quite a long time. It is perpetually cloudy here; leisurely activities like a brisk stroll in the gloomy woods feel more like opportunities for dread than a brief respite. Unfortunately, Menear’s screenplay is frustratingly repetitive–scenes of Liza witnessing something odd, Jude acting innocent, Sean not being around when the aforementioned odd thing happens…rinse, repeat. And then there’s the third act, which feels like a sudden attempt to further convolute the already puzzling reveal from the first film.
“Brahms: The Boy 2” suggests the devastation that can linger as a result of a traumatizing event that upends the fixed structure of a happy family, but in the end, the film fails to go any deeper. Many interesting tangents–from the gaslighting of women to the perversion of innocent youth by malevolent forces, both real and supernatural–are touched upon, but never satisfyingly explored. Even the reversal of the first film’s reversal is ruined by a lacklustre finale that is crushed by the weight of its own lack of imagination. Maybe the third time will be the charm? I doubt it, though.