Brahms: The Boy II

BRAHMS: THE BOY II is obviously a sequel worth doing just to apply something close to the RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II titling format to the horror genre. It would be especially cool if Brahms, the creepy doll or (SPOILER for part 1) associated human were recruited by the government for a mission only he could pull off, but this is just an ordinary horror sequel. I figure that’s why everyone seemed to be disappointed at the time, and scared me off from seeing it in the theater: the first one did the creepy doll thing well, then got truly inspired with the twists, and instead of building form there they start over with a new variation on the doll thing, leading to a new twist. Not as good. But watching it now, on a whim, with diminished expectations, I appreciated it for what it is.

Like the first one it benefits from a strong female lead, plucked from television. Katie Holmes (also great in DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK) plays Liza, mother of Jude (Christopher Convery, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB), wife of Sean (Owain Yeoman, who’s in the also-RAMBO-titled CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2). In the well-staged opening we see how Jude likes to sneak up on his mom and scare her, she thinks that’s what he’s up to when she notices he’s not in bed at night – in fact he’s hiding from home invaders. Mom puts up a good fight, but loses.

We don’t see how that was resolved, but a while later she’s still alive (phew) and unconvincingly claims to be fine, but Jude hasn’t spoken since the incident (see also: THE POPE’S EXORCIST). To get a fresh start the family moves to the country and gets a good deal on the guest house to an old manor that’s uninhabted due to tragedy (see part 1).

Touring the grounds, Jude wanders into a wooded area and discovers Brahms, the creepy Jared Kushner-esque porcelain doll, buried in the dirt. The parents help clean Brahms up, Jude starts carrying him everywhere, later returns and finds a trunk of his clothes, also buried. They know it’s weird but they support it in part because they hear him in his room talking to the doll, and they figure that’s a start.

They run into a friendly groundskeeper (Ralph Ineson, THE GREEN KNIGHT) who Liza is polite to but clearly uncomfortable around (maybe she recognizes him from THE WITCH). He seems to recognize Brahms, but says it’s okay for Jude to take him. Jude says Brahms hates his dog.

In the first movie Lauren Cohen’s character Greta kept finding Brahms in different places and poses and stuff, making her think he was alive, but it turns out he was being moved around by the real Brahms, a mask-wearing weirdo living in the walls. So I enjoy the wtf-ness of this sequel again acting like maybe he’s alive. In the tradition of the early parts of CHILD’S PLAY, Jude repeats things he supposedly said to him, but we don’t hear it. And some times Liza thinks his head turned to look at her or something, but I think we’re meant to wonder if her trauma from the home invasion is making her paranoid.

On the other hand, we see Brahms’ eyes move a few times, and the cinematic language tells us this is real. Nobody else saw it. We’re objective, we can trust our own eyes, can’t we?

One thing, though: the set up for the first one (a woman gets a job as a nanny for rich weirdos, and finds out she has to take care of a doll and pretend it’s a real kid) is much more original and interesting than this one (a kid finds a scary doll). So it never feels as uncomfortable, but at least it keeps you guessing. How can the same shit happen to the same doll twice?

There’s some good nightmare imagery, and a very good wince/laugh scene where a shitty older cousin picks on Jude and suffers the consequences of terrible luck and/or evil  doll. I think partly by not having dialogue Jude strikes a pretty good balance between sympathetic and creepy. He gets too into Brahms (dressing like him, wearing a mask of him, giving his parents lists of his “rules” to follow) but kind of seems like a victim, at least in a cult member type way.

One thing that makes the sequel passable is that the twist or the solution or whatever is pretty funny. BIG END SPOILERS. We learn that although there really was the BAD RONALD situation going on in the first one there was more to it – also the doll was cursed, so the guy in the walls was only one in a series of people doing wackadoo shit because they’re obsessed with this doll. Others include Jude and another pretty easy to guess character in the movie.

And then the truly inspired part is that Sean sneaks up and hits Brahms with a croquet mallet, and we discover… the doll has actually been alive the whole time, I guess? There’s a real head under that porcelain. Rotted and burnt up, but made of flesh. So he’s just… some kind of tiny skinny little dude living inside a doll body, either immobile, or pretending to be. And he was buried in the woods for a while. I don’t know what his deal is, and I don’t want to sound prejudiced, but I don’t trust Brahms and frankly I don’t like him as a person. There. I said it. Fuck off, Brahms. Stop manipulating people. If you want to live as a doll that’s fine but don’t make other people your play things.

Like the first film, BRAHMS is directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Menear. Since BRAHMS got terrible reviews and only did so-so I’m not gonna hold my breath for THE BOY III, but Bell did say as recently as 2022 that he’d love to do one. He said that he wanted to do a sequel about the guy in the walls but because it took four years to get the sequel going the producers felt that the only thing people remembered was the creepiness of the doll, so they focused on that.

Here’s the thing: since BRAHMS came out in 2020, Bell has already directed three more movies, and one of them was ORPHAN: FIRST KILL. I never thought there would be a followup to ORPHAN (especially a prequel with the now-adult Isabelle Fuhrman playing a younger version of her child-sized character!), so anything is possible. I would certainly be up for another one, especially if they lean in to the crazy shit.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2023 at 7:10 am and is filed under Reviews, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “Brahms: The Boy II”

  1. We need a Brahms v. Esther movie.

  2. Bell actually said Kushner was a big reason the sequel got made. The memes added to the sense of demand.

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