de facto film reviews 1 star

“The Boy”, released in January of 2016, was something of a moderate sleeper hit opening to a decent $10 million before continuing to gross nearly $75 million worldwide. The film, while nothing substantial, was a fairly moody and well-shot PG-13 horror film that subverted the usual “haunted doll” tropes with a twist ending revealing that the doll wasn’t haunted, but that a grown man was living inside the walls, stalking our main characters. With the doll being smashed into pieces and the actual killer perishing in a fire that consumed the films setting, Heelshire Mansion, a sequel would need to significantly raise the bar. “Brahms: The Boy 2” does away with nearly all the goodwill from its predecessor and instead settles on being a generic and boring sequel that offers nothing in terms of originality or scares.

In dire need of a new agent, Katie Holmes stars as Liza, a wife and mother who is suffering from PTSD after having been attacked in a home invasion that also scarred her son Jude (Christopher Convery) who has since gone mute. In an attempt to heal their trauma, Liza’s husband, Sean (Owain Yeoman), moves them from their home in the city to the more desolate countryside where Jude finds Brahms, the doll, buried in the woods. From then, strange things begin to happen leading to many questions like; how is the doll back in one piece? How is it in a new location? Is the actual Brahms back from the dead? Why hasn’t this film attempted to be scary yet? And why isn’t this more interesting? Those are the only things that qualify as genuine suspense here.

Despite fleeting moments of creepiness, returning director William Brent Bell fails to retain any of the previous films sense of atmosphere or tension. Instead of a moody, suspenseful film, “The Boy 2” is simply lifeless and wooden, not unlike the titular doll. For much of the film, Brent and screenwriter Stacey Menear coast through on thin cliches that become maddeningly repetitive. If you’ve ever seen more than 5 horror films in your life, you’ll recognize the structure of “The Boy 2”.

The cast is largely left with scraps of a screenplay so no one really comes off unscathed, with the sole exception being Ralph Ineson (“The Witch”) whose talents are inexcusably wasted here. Katie Holmes looks like she’d rather be anywhere else and fails to register any of her known screen presence.

Not even the intended Gothic setting is utilized for its full potential. The cinematography looks drab and often cheap. As generic and boring as this film is for most of its brief 86 minute run-time, the third act is at least interesting in how outrageously stupid it is. The bizarre third act twists make absolutely no sense given everything that’s come before it. The laughable conclusion attempts to rip off better films like “Sinister”, but instead falls flat leaving the film on a limp note.

“Brahms: The Boy 2” is a prime example of a sequel devoid of any original ideas or meaningful reason to exist. For everything its predecessor was able to subvert, this sequel stumbles over. Perhaps we should’ve let this doll stayed buried for good.