Film Reviews

REVIEW: Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

Oh, Brahms. You charmed us with your porcelain stare from the moment you set eyes on Lauren Cohan back in 2016. Your return to swoon another innocent into the walls of your childhood didn’t quite have us filling out the adoption papers, nor did it lead us into the drowning pool either. Lakeshore’s sequel to The Boy did right by keeping director William Brent Bell and writer Stacey Menear to delve beneath the mask. Even the official poster had a satisfying symmetry that contributed continuity; something often lost with second helpings when another creative mind takes a stab at carving or breaks the plate altogether.

After the obligatory cliffhanger of its predecessor, Brahms returns to answer the question on everyone’s lips (who made it through the first show) whilst targeting a new chaperone. A family already at their wits end – led by Katie Holmes’ Liza – seek solace in a nearby residence of the Heelshire estate to escape the memory of a past trauma on American soil, only to have old scars aggravated by Annabelle’s unofficial, toffee-nosed brother.

While The Boy promoted itself as another mundane, doll haunting, we learned by its conclusion that it had some Black Christmas surprises lurking in the walls. Brahms is pretty solid as a whole, but it plays the paranormal card again that contradicts the groundwork laid before. Therein lies the disappointment. The Boy’s twist was no Shyamalan tribute, but it at least separated its narrative from the painful predictability. Brahms patronises the audience by believing that they’ll never accept what tweaks the formula, and cannot be rendered as anything other than lazy, or playing to the cheap thrill-seekers. It’s a shame, but it’s also difficult to slam when there was some enjoyment gained.

Noted that it doesn’t stand in the golden realms of originality – being your typical modern horror sequel – gives space and a harsh spotlight to its protagonist to steal the show. Katie Holmes pops on the radar to play a mother that’s not annoying nor overbearing and that sits well in my book. She’s fair and hands-on when it comes to moments that matter, combined with her playful charm that puts us at ease while still wondering why the hell Katie Holmes is in a jump scare sequel.

Besides the nervous giggles that rise during plushie horrors – when its beady eyes dart straight to you in your reading corner – Brahms respectively says no to jump scares and instead carries forward that unintentional humour introduced in The Boy, sadly missing any rival to that Kiss moment. As Brahm’s new victim, Jude, follows his rules, the sequel rarely diverges from past regulations despite an intriguing, creepy story lurking below, begging to be explored. It’s easier to fall on the safety net and hope it bags enough cash without having the bravery to be original, all the while still being genuinely watchable.

A few hair-raising moments, chuckles and Katie Holmes’ existence in this sub-genre shouldn’t save this from being another major flop. But it does. Perhaps I’m softening to the Chucky’s of our time or just accepting that these kinda shit, kinda reliable horrors will always be staring at us from the dark. It’s a strange one. Brahms is nothing groundbreaking, but it could be a suitable fix that will likely float within the void of miscellaneous, paranormal sequels for the rest of eternity until some other curious soul decides to dig it up.

Rating: ★★★

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Written by: Stacey Menear

Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery

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