I mostly enjoyed the creepy thrills of 2016’s The Boy, where a young woman is hired by a wealthy old couple to watch their son who just happens to be a doll named Brahms who may or may not be alive. It built an atmosphere with patience until the very end where it definitively revealed the doll was not alive at all. Zoom ahead several years and now we have the awkwardly titled Brahms: The Boy II (why? why is the sequel status slated for the subtitle?) and it completely negates the previous movie. Surprise, that doll that was only a doll in the first movie is now a real supernatural presence who infects others and can move on its own. I don’t consider this a significant spoiler merely because returning director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) tips his hand so early into the movie’s 86 minutes. Because you know the doll is definitely alive now the rest of the movie becomes a tedious game of waiting for the adults to finally catch on, which makes the viewer impatient and also saps the dread out of scenes. This is the first movie I can recall where a person screams in front of a stationary doll and it’s treated like a jump scare. Katie Holmes (Logan Lucky) does her best as the matriarch of a family suffering some serious psychological trauma after being the victims of a home invasion. She and her husband see the Brahms doll as a working conduit for their son to better process his trauma. He’s even begun talking again, and also supposedly drawing very murderous pictures and saying how Brahms is angry. There’s an interesting story somewhere in here about a family using a creepy doll as an unorthodox means of PTSD therapy, but The Boy II is just such a lackluster horror movie. We know the doll is alive yet all the things we’re supposed to worry about are absent the doll’s immediate vicinity. Even as it gets more and more blatant, including a finale that reveals what Brahms looks like behind his mask (did you even think there was a “behind”?), the movie fails to make you care about anything that’s happening. It’s sluggish, silly, and stale. Even if you were a marginal fan of the first one, I would advise skipping Brahms. I wonder if there will be a The Boy III that completely undoes the sequel, the Rise of Skywalker to The Boy II‘s Last Jedi. Never thought I’d write that sentence.
Nate’s Grade: C-
The scariest thing about The Boy is how much potential it wastes, foolishly abandoning a horror direction that was eerie, supernatural, and with one leg rooted in a psychological breakdown, and instead cheerfully dives headfirst into an unwanted new direction of cheap campy thrills. I haven’t seen a decent movie unravel with this high-speed velocity and tone-shift since Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, an intelligent sci-fi vision that decided, hey, let’s just make the entire final act a slasher movie in space. The Boy is about an American nanny who travels abroad to care for an elderly couple’s young son Brahms, a son who happens to be a porcelain doll. There are rules to be followed and consequences if they are disobeyed. I liked that our heroine (Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead) doesn’t try and ignore what she’s seeing for a majority of the movie and instead embraces the unusual circumstances, testing Brahms and discovering more. It kept the film moving in more engaging directions rather than denying the obvious and padding out its run time. I wish that the script opened up more about the domestic violence that haunts our heroine, literally and figuratively, but for a solid hour I was fairly entertained by the supernatural parlor games and lead performance by Cohan. Then the last act occurred, which just swiped away all the good will. I groaned aloud when the shift happened. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say it feels distinctly like two different movies clumsily grafted onto one another at the behest of exec. What once could be excused or forgiven in a supernatural realm cannot when trying to ground the story in reality, and it only unleashes a horde of nagging questions that don’t add up, especially concerning Brahm’s parents and the implications of its ending. The Boy is a cautionary tale about leaving well enough alone, understanding the strengths of your spooky story and tone, and committing to the best idea rather than one that “surprises” while laying waste to your larger story.
Nate’s Grade: C
I heard all about The Devil Inside earlier this year, when supposedly midnight screening audiences were so incensed that they practically became a riotous mob, throwing items at the screen, loudly booing, some even destroying theater equipment. If that doesn’t sell this movie, then I don’t know what will. I wasn’t expecting much from this faux documentary about one pretty girl’s (Fernanda Andrade) search for her crazy mom who may or may not be possessed by demons. She enlists the help of two exorcists and a camera crew and goes searching for answers. Never mind that the movie is absent any scares outside the sudden jump variety, ignore the empty characters and nonsensical plotting and poor pacing and choppy editing, as well as some bad Italian accents, and let’s get down to what makes this movie so notorious – the ending. Just when it appears that The Devil Inside is gearing up for a climactic showdown between good and evil, just when it seems like the movie is finally getting somewhere, it ends in the most abrupt, ludicrous fashion (note to self: when transporting possessed people, stow them away in the trunk). You’re left dumbstruck, shocked that the filmmakers cheated you out of an ending. It’s a nonsensical and cheap thing to do, and I can understand why it inflamed audiences (it still made over $50 million, so I think the filmmakers are feeling fine). Only those easily spooked by demonic possession would find this movie scary. Everyone else will just find it upsetting, not because of its content, but because of its lack of a workable conclusion.
Nate’s Grade: D+