Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

Director: William Brent Bell
Notable Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Jay

The Boy became something of a surprise success. It did some bank in the box office, compared to its budget, and generated quite the word of mouth, particularly from its finale. However, it was a film that existed too firmly in a generic blue print for most of its run time. In my opinion, even its fantastic third act couldn’t quite lift it above being a mediocre horror film. The shock of this recently released sequel wasn’t that it existed, the original was a hit, but that it took four years for it to finally come out in theaters.

The big question of the sequel is how does one follow up the first film’s reveal and still maintain the concept without diverting the idea and tone in drastic ways? If you were to judge by what Brahms: The Boy II is delivering to its audiences, you can’t. Where the first film generated a lot of fun moments with some decent performances and slick production, Brahms fails to generate, well, anything. It’s a snoozer that meanders through its formula with such a wooden sense of purpose, one would be surprised that everyone working on the film wasn’t a puppet.

Perhaps that last line is a bit harsh for my normal criticism of a film, but it didn’t help that I re-watched the first film the night prior to prep for this sequel. To properly discuss the main issue that drives Brahms into an early grave, it’s necessary to spoil the ending of the original. If you are easily dissuaded by spoilers, please feel free to go watch The Boy and then come back to this review.

In this film, it’s revealed that the man living in the walls at the end of The Boy was just, in fact, the latest victim in a line of kids that was being pseudo-possessed by the Brahms doll. It has a strange power over some people (but not others). After a recent and rather violent break in, a family move to stay in the guest house on the property of the first film to get away from the city and emotionally heal. The young son, Jude, soon finds the titular doll buried in the woods and his parents, lead by mother Liza (Katie Holmes,) must battle the demonic doll before they fall to its dark spell.

The reason that watching the first film makes the second one such a perplexing and often hard watch is that Brahms seems intent on completely trashing all of the better elements of the first. It rewrites the lore of the ending, where it was revealed there was no supernatural element, and the film even has the audacity to add so much unnecessary mud to the water that nothing is clear by the finale. Any idea of what this series had to offer as a thematic thread is shredded by the events of this sequel. To add to the confusion, this film is directed by the same person (Bell) and written by the same writer (Menear.) This is almost a Highlander II gap in quality from its predecessor. Judging by the look, tone, and script, I would have never guessed it was the same creative forces – until I looked it up.

To add insult to injury, Brahms is a film that not only falters in its generic writing and narrative, but it feels like a substandard knock off in its execution. The performances are wildly hit or miss, despite some talent in its ranks – including Ralph Ineson who tries his best with his odd secondary role, and the film visually lacks the feel and tones that made the original interesting. Gone is most of the gothic elements and it’s replaced by a straightforward evil kid approach to telling its story. The slow burn style is jettisoned for generic jump scares. It’s a film that, even in its style and cinematic language, feels lazy.

While the film does completely kick dirt onto the somewhat interesting film that is its predecessor, it tries its best to add something new to the series. Unfortunately, that “new” portion is a massive misstep and actively undercuts its predecessor’s better qualities. Brahms: The Boy II is both disappointing and perplexing as a sequel. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the original, there is very little to recommend with this one and it’s the first skip I suggest for the year.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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