Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 1, 2020)
With a worldwide gross of $74 million, 2016’s The Boy didn’t exactly become a box office sensation. However, like many horror flicks, it cost so little money that it turned a tidy profit.
Surprisingly, it took four years for a sequel to finally arrive. Perhaps due to that long layoff, 2020’s Brahms: The Boy II flopped, as even its low $10 million budget couldn’t redeem its $20 million worldwide take.
As such, I wouldn’t count on a third film in the series, but who knows? Slash the budget down to $5 million and maybe the franchise can continue.
When a violent home invasion leaves their family scarred, married couple Sean (Owain Yeoman) and Liza (Katie Holmes) take young son Jude (Christopher Convery) and move from London to the remote English countryside. He went mute after the traumatic incident so they hope a new start will benefit him.
They relocate to Heelshire Manor, an estate where weird violence previously occurred. The family remains unaware of the location’s troubled past, however.
After they settle in at Heelshire, Jude discovers a lifelike porcelain doll named Brahms. Jude develops a bond with this object and strange incidents soon begin to occur.
Because the genre comes burdened by so many clichés and trite choices, I expect little from horror flicks, but the 2016 Boy came as a pleasant surprise. It seemed fairly creative and turned into an effective little chiller.
That led to increased expectations from Brahms, though not to a tremendous degree. I tend to feel so skeptical of the genre that I leaned toward the view that the 2016 film offered an aberration and Brahms probably would regress toward the mean.
Call me Nostradamus, as that prediction proved correct. Brahms almost totally extinguishes the goodwill earned by the original movie, as it provides a stale, silly affair.
Part of the first flick’s charm came from the fact it didn’t rely on fantasy elements to earn the audience’s attention. While the viewer likely anticipates an Annabelle situation with supernatural concepts, The Boy wound up with real-world explanations for its horror.
Even though Brahms comes from the same writer and director as The Boy, it unwisely jettisons this form of reality. Without too many spoilers on display, Brahms ignores the rules set up in the prior flick and makes Brahms a figure with magical powers.
To some degree, the movie tries to explain this twist, but these narrative elements feel utterly unconvincing, and they match poorly with what we learned in the 2016 tale. It feels like the filmmakers decided that they couldn’t recreate the same atmosphere so they just abandoned attempts to allow the two to mesh.
Maybe I’d buy these alterations if Brahms managed to turn into something more than a collection of jump scares in search of a story. Whereas The Boy mustered real characters and an actual plot, Brahms just tosses out a bunch of “boo moments” without anything much to connect them.
Oh sure, Brahms attempts some deeper meaning via the PTSD suffered by both Jude and his mother, but those moments act as nothing more than windowdressing. This turns into an empty story that uses psychological damage as a shallow attempt at meaning.
Honestly, I find it tough to accept that the same writer and director made The Boy and Brahms, for the two seem so disconnected. Brahms turns into a real disappointment after the engaging Boy.