Saturday, 22 February 2020

Brahms: The Boy II (2020) - Movie Review

2016’s The Boy has gotten a bit of critical re-evaluation since its release. I am likely never going to understand why people would like something this hacky and undercooked, but I’m not so far up my own arse as to try and get between someone and actually liking something. Getting into a proper grievance about shit like that is one of the pettiest things a person can engage in, and I certainly don’t want to encourage it.

But with that said, yeah, I’m not a big fan of that film, nor of the film’s director William Brent Bell. I have made statements to the tune of him being an absolute hack and one of the most non-essential filmmakers in the modern horror scene, and even pitted him against fellow schlockmeister John R. Leonetti for the title of worst horror director working today. And for that… I honestly want to apologise. Because with Bell’s latest, he isn’t in competition with Leonetti anymore. He has straight-up won that fight.

Let’s start with the basics: This isn’t scary. Like, to the point where it doesn’t even delve into music video horror territory and have orchestral stings team up with the jump scares. It can’t even manage that much, instead putting way too much stock in the atmosphere to give even the slightest inkling that we’re supposed to be scared of the titular doll. It’s an admittedly reasonable approach, since composer Bear McCreary always manages to shine even in the dullest of messes, but nothing else here is even remotely trying. Dude knows the doll itself can’t manage on its own, as its placid porcelain features are definitely among the lesser of the bigger ‘creepy doll’ canon.

It thankfully pulls back a little on the tonal issues that so plagued the first film, moving more directly into psychological territory with a mother and son moving off into the country after a rather traumatising home invasion. Ignoring how this ‘change of scenery’ was basically the same impetus for the first film’s plot, it at least tries to do some justice to both their initial fractured state and how the inclusion of the doll might end up being a useful tool in helping the son recover.

Of course, that very idea not only locks in perfectly with the clich├ęs of the genre, it also has a rather trashy B-movie way of delving into the psychiatric matters at hand. I made a comparison between the first film and Pin in my review for it, and this film goes even further down that road, with the kid dressing up like the doll and essentially going down the road of becoming the doll. Once again, I find myself looking back at Pin with ever-increasing fondness as, for as goofy as that film could get, it still handled the idea a lot better than anything writer Stacey Menear can conjure up.

But all of that doesn’t even come close to the film’s biggest problem, which is its closest resemblance to the original: The lack of forethought put into the actual story. The original kept itself stuck between ‘the characters are going crazy’ and ‘the doll is actually possessed’, and tried to accomplish both with its ending and just made a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing.

And here, the filmmakers bank on you both having seen the original film and not having seen it for its own twists to make any sense. While I could be charitable and compare the genre switch-up here to something like the Friday The 13th series, it’s honestly a lot closer to the Ghost House Pictures’ Boogeyman movies in how desperately it wants to have its cake and eat it too in regards to story continuity. It’s a change that ultimately feels in-tune with the first film, but only because that film also lacked narrative direction to the point of plain not knowing what to do with itself, and it makes for a ‘twist’ that can be spotted from a mile away. Even though it directly contradicts the film that came before it.

Even knowing that there are audiences out there who liked the first film, I seriously doubt that they’ll be as supportive of this one. Along with being excruciatingly dull and trope-laden, not to mention anchored by Katie Holmes in a leading role who doesn’t rise above what’s been expected of her lately, it makes for such a fundamentally wrong-headed sequel that, despite having the same director and writer at the helm, it feels like it was made by people who didn’t even watch the original.

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