Brahms: The Boy II Blu-ray Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Blu-ray released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Directed by William Brent Bell
Written by Stacey Menear
2020, 86 minutes, PG-13
Released on May 19th, 2020
Katie Holmes as Liza
Christopher Convery as Jude
Owain Yeoman as Sean
Anjali Jay as Dr. Lawrence
So, The Boy wasn’t on my viewing slate back in 2016. I don’t recall a particular reason why; I watched it a couple of days before sitting down with the sequel in 2020, though, and it makes a damn good showing. The doll’s design is simple and naturally creepy, the “gothic light” setting is both beautiful and atmospheric, and the movie takes a sharp turn in the last act that sets up a proper numbered sequel. General audience response at the time was good if not surprise – PG-13 horror is in many ways the trickiest to nail down, after all, and The Boy managed to get respect from all stripes of horror fans.
Brahms: The Boy II takes us back to Heelshire Manor (relabeled Greenview) and into the lives of Liza (Katie Holmes; Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Batman Begins), her husband, Sean (Owain Yeoman; The Belko Experiment), and their son, Jude (Christopher Convery; Stranger Things). After a life-threatening burglary gone wrong while Sean is away at work, the family gets away to a vacation home to recover and heal. Jude isn’t speaking anymore; he only writes in a notebook. Things are about to get truly dark for the damaged family after Jude finds a doll buried in the woods. That doll is Brahms, reassembled and as spooky as ever. It doesn’t take long for Dad to think Mom is losing her mind and jumping at shadows; surely, she doesn’t think the doll is really alive?! But Brahms is no ordinary doll, and there’s more to his story than you ever knew. It seems everyone is about to discover exactly what Brahms really is…
Brahms: The Boy II takes care in the early goings to make sure that you know you are seeing a more classic style of cinematic horror film than you might be used to, and it generally does that in such a way that it’s more comfortingly familiar instead of oddly old-fashioned (as some high-budget Gothic horror can come off). There’s a pair of lovely mirrored silhouettes in the home invasion scene, for example, that set the tone for excellent light and shadow balance. The true widescreen format is how this is supposed to look.
Structurally, it plays quite a bit like the original. Liza’s nightmares and subtle movements and head turns from Brahms set up all the tension, and the brooding score sets it all off. In fact, much of the early tension comes from the nightmare sequences. You feel somewhat like you’re watching the same film for the first thirty minutes. Then, the mythology of Brahms starts to expand for the first time in the series, and the sequels elevates itself into the category of sequels that are better than the original.
Brahms: The Boy II does everything that a sequel should do – it expands the mythology, does more visually than the original did, and maintain the Gothic style and sensibility of the budding franchise. The increase in movement and physicality from Brahms is a game changer, and the look of the “real Brahms” is some truly enjoyable SFX work. Much like the doll design itself, it’s not overdone…but it’s distinctly nasty in direct contrast to the normally bland blank canvas that is Brahms porcelain face. That whole reveal leads to one of the more effective finishing battles in recent memory.
There’s definitely something to be said for having the same writer and director for the first two films in a series. That continuity is harder to achieve than many realize, and Brahms: The Boy 2 is a killer example of why that’s so important. Much like its predecessor, it turns into a different kind of horror film for the home stretch and firmly establishes the possession aspect of the series to come front and center. How the original fits into the framework of the whole story is an interesting writing touch that will bear more fruit later.
Video and Audio:
The 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.39:1 is a thing of sublime beauty with this film’s stark black and white contrasts, dark wood paneled luxury, and Gothic feel.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 gives good life to the tense strings and jarring moments of the score. The Audio options also offer DVS (Descriptive Video Service), and that’s just fucking cool.
Alternate Ending: While there are no big twists here (it’s essentially the same finish), this is the dramatically beefed up and drawn out version with more mental interaction between Jude and Brahms. It could’ve stayed and wouldn’t have bloated the ending, but you can see why it was probably an easy time cut.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes:
- “Extended Nightmare”: In Liza’s extended nightmare sequence, there’s a terrifying surprise that frankly should have been left in. Great scene.
- “Braums Watches TV”: A different choice of what’s on the television for Brahms to enjoy, a simple alternate scene. Interesting.
- “Mold Number”: Shows an alternate take on the big moment when Liza is looking for Brahms mold number (in a scene that echoes The Omen) that’s not nearly as visceral and scary. This is the alternate for a reason; it’s nowhere near as shudder-inducing. This scene shows why you always go for visceral over a jump scare. Always.
- “You Don’t Understand”: This is an extended relationship scene between Liza and Sean. There’s not enough time spent on that relationship anyways, so it’s not hard to see why it was cut.
- “Jude’s Drawings”: Virtually the same scene with a little crazier artwork. You’ll like the artwork, though.
- “The Doll Maker”: What a little gem! In this creepy deleted scene, a doll maker presents a shocking surprise that might be a down the road clue or plot point later in the franchise. Very intriguing.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.