William Brent Bell directed the original The Boy, a movie that pleasantly surprised us when it was released in 2016. This follow-up has been on our radar for some time, yet has been knocked around schedule-wise. Originally set to play theaters in July and December 2019, it finally made its way to the graveyard of films that are the first two months of the year.
I wanted to absolutely adore this movie, but I walked away only liking it. That’s because the beauty of its predecessor was that while it seemed like a supernatural film, there was an even more unsettling reality as to why Brahms, the porcelain boy, could move, communicate and impact his surroundings.
In this installment, the film goes all-in on the otherworldly, sometimes to its credit (the gleefully unhinged look of the villain once his face has been destroyed) and often to its detriment.
In all elevated horror, it seems that the true enemy isn’t the gnawing unknown existing just on the side of our consciousness, but bad marriages and worse parenting. Liza (Katie Holmes, of whom my wife inquired, “Why is she doing this movie?”) and Sean seem as if they’ve had a divide between them since their son Jude was born. He’s a sensitive soul, the kind that enjoys pranking his mother for no good reason before a home invasion renders their lives worse than it was before.
Between Liza’s head injuries, Jude getting shellshocked and Sean seeming not to care at all, the family moves to the country. Obviously, money is not one of their dilemmas. Settling in at the guest house of the first film’s Heelshire estate, they soon meet Jospeh (Ralph Ineson, who post-The Vvitch is the go-to for strangely off UK-based character acting).
Moments later, Jude has stopped his precious handwriting instead of speaking and unearthed Brahms from his earthen grave. While Jude’s therapist sees having the plaything as a positive at first, by the end of the film, the rules of owning Brahms have led to a brutal game of croquet and canine decimation.
While the film has a call back scene to the drowning in the first movie, you don’t need to know that story to watch this. Neither Laura Cohan or James Russell returned, due to scheduling conflicts and not wanting the role.
This will probably be streaming by the time I finish writing this review, but it was a pleasant enough filmgoing experience. There’s an end sequence that reminded me of the much more harrowing doll scene in Argento’s Deep Red, but I really did enjoy the closing moments.
So few modern horror films get the opportunity to become franchises, compared to the movies of my teen years. Brahms: The Boy II engages in world building and trying to place a reason for all the madness, but in my opinion, the unanswered nature of the first film was a much more horrific experience.
Oddly enough, while I liked this movie, I’ve gone the other way; I found the first one less satisfying than this one, and the second installment answered the questions I had. It’s a strange franchise, like a 70’s British horror tv show…
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