Hey Jude, what’s with the doll?
You’re a big boy, turn out that night-light.
Remember, the voices are just in your head. Just stick to your bed. And never forget the doll’s rules. Or you know, he’ll kill you…
It’s back to Jolly Olde for “Brahms: The Boy II,” a horror sequel about the Victorian collectible with the insanely-lifelike green glass eyes, a doll that doesn’t walk and doesn’t talk.
Not to YOU, anyway. Not if you’re the parents (Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman) whose beautiful little boy (Christopher Convery) has dug up this doll in the woods near a familiar English estate.
Jude, the kid, stopped speaking after a home invasion that almost got Mummy killed back in London. He was a normal child with the most grotesque Tim Burtonesque wall decor, “too big for a nightlight” when we meet him, a lover of pranks he likes to play on Mum.
One violent robbery later and this is the family where trauma lives. Liza has headaches and nightmares and Jude’s stopped talking. His shrink (Anjali Jay) can’t fix him. He just scribbles notes on his pad, in between pages upon pages of the most morbid memories of that awful night scrawled in alarming drawings.
The “fresh start” in the country isn’t one the moment the kid is summoned by a voice to dig up the doll from hell in the woods.
What’s the dolly’s name, son?
“Brahms” he writes. “Like the composer,” Dad says. “How’d you come up with that?”
“He told me.”
As is the way of such formulaic horror, the adults are slow to take the kid’s warnings that the doll is talking to him, that Brahms is “angry” if you break his “rules” (“No guests.” Brahms must take his meals with Jude. “Never leave me alone.”).
The groundskeeper of the old estate next door (Ralph Ineson) seems to recognize the doll. And the guy’s Alsasian can’t stop growling. He knows.
There is one seriously suspenseful scene in the script, and it’s suspenseful because the trailers to the movie have given it away. Nothing else in it is scary, and the third act’s a career-killing embarrassment.
There’s little rising panic, paranoia or questioning her sanity in Holmes’ performance as the mother. She has to be wondering if this doll is freaking her out because of her own fragile state. Aside from soft focus wooziness effects, Holmes doesn’t do justice to this.
Fiercely protective Mom? That she acts the hell out of. The kid isn’t nearly creepy enough. The movie might work better — or just a tiny bit better — if he was absorbing more of the doll’s malevolence.
As it is, this “Brahms” is a lullaby of horror, lulling you to sleep without any threat of nightmares.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, violence, disturbing images and thematic elements.
Cast: Katie Holmes, Christopher Convery, Owain Yeoman, Anjali Jay, Ralph Ineson
Credits: Directed by William Brent Bell, script by Stacy Menear. An STX release.
Running time: 1:26