Review: Return of creepy killer doll can’t help ‘Brahms: The Boy II’ overcome cliches


The hit 2016 “haunted doll” thriller “The Boy” put a sharp spin on a tired genre, by revealing in its last act that — spoiler alert — the title figurine, named Brahms, was actually being guarded by a creepy, masked adult, who lived in the walls of a spooky old mansion. Unfortunately, as enjoyably perverse as that twist was, it arrived too late in the picture to compensate for the preceding hour of gothic horror cliches.

The sequel, “Brahms: The Boy II,” takes a somewhat different approach to the original’s premise. Some of these changes are for the better and some for the worse; but on the whole, the overall quality remains about the same. Like its predecessor, “The Boy II” is a fairly corny and stodgy spook-show, with a few good jolts and one genuinely creepy killer toy.

One point in the sequel’s favor: The scares come early and often. In the new film, a family of three is looking for a fresh start after a traumatic home invasion — shown in disturbing detail. The trio moves into the guest house on the estate from “The Boy.” There, the son Jude (Christopher Convery) finds Brahms and brings him into the house, demanding that mom Liza (Katie Holmes) and dad Sean (Owain Yeoman) follow the first movie’s “rules” and treat the doll like a person.


What follows is a more conventional, “Annabelle”-like devil-doll story, with Liza becoming increasingly concerned about the freaky phenomena happening around the house — nearly all of which Jude blames on Brahms. As always, the doll’s blank face and soulless eyes make even the most routine “What’s the bump?” and “Who moved that furniture?” moments moderately more spine-tingling.

Like a lot of horror sequels, “Brahms” gets too hung up on mythology, as Liza’s research into the history of her son’s new friend leads to a lot of dreary and disappointing explanations of things that don’t really need a raison d’être — including the big central shocker from “The Boy.”

The biggest issue, however, is that director William Brent Bell and screenwriter Stacey Menear, the creative team behind “The Boy” and “Brahms,” don’t seem to have much ambition beyond giving the audience the willies in the most obvious ways imaginable. Early on, the film ties the family’s Brahms-related anxieties to the violent assault they suffered in the first scene, suggesting that their troubles run deep. But before long, they’re just like any other ordinary horror movie family: mother, father, son and demonically possessed plaything.

'Brahms: The Boy II'

Rated: PG-13, for terror, violence, disturbing images and thematic elements

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: In general release