Cue jump scares, murdered animals and rolling doll’s (and audiences’) eyes. Liza believes her son is rapidly sliding into a state of dangerous delusion, wherein he blames his own dark behavior on Brahms. The rifle-sporting “part-gardener, part-guard” neighbor Joseph (Ralph Ineson) has a totally different theory, which the film supports, suggesting from the get-go that paranormal forces are at play. It all culminates in a fiery finale, involving a hilarious little maggot-infested skull.
While I do admire the filmmakers’ favoring atmosphere over gratuitous gore, the film’s a mess. It boldly regurgitates chunks from the first film: several “it’s just a dream” sequences (ugh), a “staring into the doll’s eyes while urging it to come alive” scene, the bonkers finale… None of it is remotely frightening or original, the admittedly good-looking film adding nothing new to this unfortunate horror subgenre.
“There’s a good story hidden within the murk…one about demons haunting an adolescent child…”
Katie Holmes does what she can with an underwritten part, yet her torn character sometimes seems as confused and apathetic as we are about what the hell is going on. Owain Yeoman plays one note – the concerned dad and husband – to such forceful degree, the string is threatening to pop. Ralph Ineson seems to have stepped in from another film set, chewing on scenery as if it were Shepherd’s Pie. The young Christopher Convery fares best – he’s a natural, especially in the silent parts, conveying both malice and childlike innocence, fear and frightening intensity. He belongs in a much better film.
I left the theater thinking about Richard Attenborough’s cult classic Magic. It was written by the great William Goldman and starred a young Anthony Hopkins. It revolved around the ambiguity of whether its evil ventriloquist dummy was, in fact, possessed, or its protagonist was plain psychotic. If you are absolutely craving another talking doll film, give that one a go. Let Brahms and his porcelain/wooden/plastic buddies rest in peace.
"…I do admire the filmmakers’ favoring atmosphere over gratuitous gore, the film’s a mess"