Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

FEBRUARY 21, 2020


As a fan/defender of 2016's The Boy, I was excited and a bit vindicated when STX announced a sequel in 2018, and have been patiently waiting for it to come out ever since. Alas, four years is a long damn time to wait for this sort of thing as it's not exactly Star Wars or Avengers; I think 18 months is really the max that any studio should wait before putting out a sequel to a mid-level hit such as that one was, because people just forget about it. And that's especially true in this case, because the first film relied on a big twist in the third act to make up for what was a fairly slow first 75 minutes, making it the sort of movie that doesn't lend itself to repeat viewings. Well, at long last, Brahms: The Boy II is here and... oof.

In my review of the first film I was careful not to give away its twist, but it's been four years so I'm going to do that now as I assume you know or simply don't care: Brahms the doll was not alive, but Brahms the thought-dead boy was still alive and now an adult living in the walls of the manor for the past twenty years, turning the film into a low-key masked slasher film for its final reel. To me, that was what made the movie work as well as it did, as you spend the entire thing wondering if the main character was going crazy or if the doll really was alive like Chucky or the Puppet Master toys, only to discover that it was a third option you likely didn't consider. But now that we know that, how do you do a sequel that focuses on the doll again, since we live in a world where the Annabelle sequels clean up but the masked slasher movies tank? Apparently, the answer that the creative team and producers - all of whom return from the first film, mind you - came up with is "Fine, the doll is alive."

So Brahms the flesh and blood man does not return in this film, nor does it fully embrace the slasher-ness that it had to hide last time around. Instead, a new family led by Katie Holmes moves in to the guest house next door to the original big mansion, their son finds the doll in the woods that separate the two homes, starts acting creepy with it, etc. So any fan of the original is just waiting for the real Brahms to reveal himself, but he never does, though at least some of that unwelcome surprise is dulled by the 40 minute mark or so, as that's around when we see the doll move (only slightly, to be fair) in one of the rare scare scenes that aren't the result of Holmes' character having a nightmare. Worse (spoilers ahead, because I don't care this time), the backstory we get a little while later retcons the original, chalking the real Brahms' behavior up to possession by the doll, and then going back and showing how that his family was just one of several to live there and meet with tragedy, always blaming the doll for the murders and accidents.

Quite frankly, this sort of revisionist approach sucks, and stinks of the same over-complicated mythology that made the first two Annabelle movies such a slog (the third, where they finally just let Annabelle be creepy and put her alongside other evil things, is the best). A disturbed child attaching himself to a doll is interesting, but a doll continuously possessing family after family over a hundred plus years is not. It just feels like a way to turn this into an ongoing franchise (with prequel possibilities), which is somewhat expected for any horror sequel (no one wants to stop with just part 2) but not if it had to come at the expense of what worked about the original. It feels like jumping from the first Halloween to Curse of Michael Myers, but worse because at least John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn't have anything to do with that one. Why do the people who made The Boy suddenly want to shit all over The Boy?

Making things even more frustrating is the fact that William Brent Bell and Stacey Menear seemingly lay the groundwork for another real-world explanation for the film's events. In the opening sequence we see Katie Holmes come home from work, activate a security system, and then facetime with her husband about how he will be working late again. So when she's woken up in the middle of the night by a pair of robbers, one could reasonably deduce that the hubby hired some guys (or is one of the masked robbers himself, having lied about working) to attack his wife in order to get an insurance payout, or even kill her to be with another woman (with the kid being a wild card), as evil movie husbands often do. Other events in the movie that are chalked up to the doll (or the kid) could have been the husband (in fact in one instance it would make a hell of a lot more sense than what we're ultimately told), and had they gone that route, it would have allowed for another twist (albeit a less surprising one) and retained the established "no supernatural hooey" rule from the first.

But no, dad's not an evil jerk, he really does just work late and we are never given an explanation for how the two robbers managed to bypass the security system that Bell and his editor (Brian Berdan, also returning from the original) took the time to establish, or what they wanted, or why they tried to kill Holmes (she actually seems dead*) but left the kid alone. As for why the man is conveniently absent every time Brahms does something naughty, I can only guess Bell/Menear wanted us to suspect him so they could pull an inverse of the first film's reveal (so going from "not a ghost - a real killer!" to "not a killer - a real ghosts"), but it doesn't work on any satisfying level, and it's never a good idea to retcon an earlier movie unless you know for a fact you're improving on it. It's not the first time a horror sequel felt made by people who never saw the previous entry, but it's certainly the first time it was actually made by the exact same people.

Honestly, I can't think of anything that works here. The young lad is effectively creepy when he starts dressing as Brahms, and I can give them a bit of credit for allowing a child to get injured in the movie's only real horrific act (even though it was spoiled on the trailer), but a few sprinkled bright spots can't make up for a film that's somehow even more slowly paced than the first one (unforgivable for a sequel) and actively goes out of its way to sweep its events and reveals under the rug. I could maybe just roll my eyes and forget about it if this was The Boy IX: Brahms Goes To Hell and they were grasping at straws, but this is only part 2 to a movie that didn't need a sequel in the first place. My unending affinity for Katie "Joey Potter" Holmes isn't nearly enough to overcome the film's uninteresting narrative decisions, near total lack of suspense, and - worst of all - seeming desire to tell me I was wrong to appreciate the first film's lack of supernatural elements.

What say you?

*When they cut to a few months later and Holmes was up and about, I spent a few minutes thinking this might be a Sixth Sense thing and she'd be a ghost the whole time, but it's quickly clear she's not as the kid's shrink addresses them both. She's just left with headaches from the ordeal, presumably to allow us to think she's just cracking up. But upon rewatching the first one this week as a refresher, I realized that the two main males in the movie were named Malcolm and Cole - the same as the two leads in Shyamalan's classic, so as dumb as it would have been to pull that twist here, at least "they both pay homage to The Sixth Sense" would give the two Boy films more in common than they actually have now.


  1. Okay, here's my question. Spoilers warning, I guess, for other readers...

    ...why does the doll name itself Brahms?! If I'm understanding the new backstory correctly, this evil spirit has been wrecking families for decades, way before our boy Brahms was even born. Does it just assume the identity of its most recent owner? Not a good look for there to be confusion over who the title character refers to!

  2. ah...yikes. super disappointed in this. i loved the boy a lot and was excited for a new wave of doll movies, and especially excited when the sequel was announced. im guessing it got pushed back initially because it was opening up against both Anabelle and Childs Play?

    anyway haunted doll movies are probably my favorite kind of horror movie and this one really let me down. guess ill just have to wait for the chucky series on syfy.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget