Brahms: The Boy II (3 stars)

Brahms: The Boy II

Katie Holmes stars in this simple but unsettling sequel that improves on the original

With the Conjuring / Annabelle films taking forever to reach a conclusion, there's a gap in the market for a fast turnaround on the familiar horror concept of the devil doll. 2016's The Boy was an old-school sleeper success, grossing over $60 million worldwide on a small budget, allowing returning director William Brent Bell to fashion a shop-worn but agreeably unpretentious franchise.

Katie Holmes plays Liza, the victim of a violent home invasion at the London flat she shares with her partner Sean (Owain Yeoman). Her young son Jude (Christopher Convery) is traumatised by the attack, and unable to speak, so Liza unwisely transfers her family to the countryside, where they move into a cottage close to the Heelshire estate featured in the original. Jude discovers a doll named Brahms buried in the mud and adopts him as a friend. But Brahms has an unnatural hold on the boy, and soon violent events happen to anyone who gets in their way.

Ralph Ineson (Harry Potter, The Witch) is the trusted gamekeeper who may hold the key to Brahms's secret; the veteran British actor is part of a general upgrade with Brahms: The Boy II improving on the original in almost every way, with better acting, locations and frights. Liza's internal confusion allows for plenty of cheap jump-scares, while the explanation for the increasingly supernatural events makes much more sense second time around.

The film's simple, unsettling trick is that Brahms appears in slightly different positions as the camera passes by, the same ploy that worked for Dead of Night, Magic and Child's Play. Without any notably tense or memorable sequences, The Boy II manages to creep audiences out in this traditional fashion; horror aficionados, at least, should enjoy the ancient yet effective tactics employed here.

General release from Fri 21 Feb.

Brahms: The Boy II

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • 1h 26min
  • 15
  • Directed by: William Brent Bell
  • Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery
  • UK release: 21 February 2020

Liza (Holmes) is the victim of a violent home invasion in her London flat, after which she moves to the countryside; but then her traumatised young son (Convery) finds a doll called Brahms, which gets a hold over him. An improvement on the original in every way, with simple but effective jump-scares and better acting.