The title of the brand new horror dud Brahms: The Boy II raises some questions the movie can’t reply. It flouts all conventions of sequel-naming, appending serious-business Roman numerals to the title of its 2016 predecessor The Boy, whereas additionally tacking on the identify of the franchise’s breakout villain for optimum model recognition. Discounting the overreaching try to have it each methods — you both rebrand otherwise you don’t! — why awkwardly stuff the Brahms earlier than the semicolon? It’s on par with referring to A Nightmare on Elm Road 3: The Dream Warriors as Freddy Krueger: A Nightmare on Elm Road III. Like a porcelain figurine turning its head and blinking, it merely doesn’t look proper.

So it’s a grim signal that this clunky title seems to be essentially the most distinctive, memorable factor of the movie.

Viewers could expend extra mind energy than needed on that title as they anticipate the tedious, wholly pointless Brahms, Too! to finish. Seemingly born from a mandate that each one style releases passing a sure box-office benchmark routinely obtain the franchise therapy, this continuation extends a narrative that was already stretched a bit skinny in The Boy.

Picture: STXfilms

Director William Brent Bell’s first swing on the materials pulled a minor bait-and-switch by billing itself as an evil-toy image, then revealing itself as a gaslight image. A nanny was pushed insane by Brahms, the creepy doll supposedly housing the soul of the prematurely deceased son of the English manor’s homeowners. However Bell took care to stage every fright in an effort to maintain the ultimate revelation that the precise wrongdoer was the actual Brahms, alive and skittering across the partitions. Although the movie was no nice shakes, that last section introducing the bona fide Brahms had severe potential, in each the character’s lanky physicality and his eerie baby-mask.

Bell’s largest gaffe with the sequel is abandoning the whole lot he’d already constructed to needlessly rewrite the mythos. Brahm and Brahmer 2 sends a whole household to the identical haunted home, and this time, the supernatural menace has a foundation within the movie’s actuality. Brahms the person is nowhere to be seen, and Brahms the item can now transfer, trigger havoc, and apparently possess the souls of the harmless. Extra irritating than the hazy nature of the character’s talents is Bell’s refusal to depict them in motion. Watching a foot-tall plaything flip over a dinner desk can be both hilarious or terrifying, and both path can be an enchancment over the flavorless slurry Bell is dishing up.

Echoing Midsommar, the movie begins with a prologue of familial tragedy leaving a deep scar of trauma. A house invasion performs out whereas Dad (Owain Yeoman) is off working. Masked intruders brutalize Mother (Katie Holmes), whereas her son Jude (Christopher Convery) can do nothing however watch, leaving the child with comprehensible psychological misery that he expresses as selective mutism. Stacey Menear’s script then delves into Pediatric Remedy 101, as Dr. Exposition (Anjali Jay) informs the sad couple that their son wants an exterior outlet of some type to supply him with a secure conduit for emotional expression. He would possibly as nicely be begging to get mentally subsumed by a demonic collectible.

Following the migration of so many doomed scary-movie households earlier than them, they flee the poisonous scramble of “town” for the healthful serenity of “the nation,” each areas outlined as vaguely as doable. Their real-estate agent uncared for to say the occasions of Brahms 1: The Boy I in her gross sales pitch, nevertheless, and he or she leaves the spouses to fend for themselves because the resident specter seeps out of the doll and into their son. The metaphor — a once-cheery teenager is overtaken by malevolence, susceptible to sudden, inexplicable outbursts — is obvious, although not significantly unique. Right here’s one other occasion wherein maintaining the whole lot earthbound would’ve labored to the movie’s benefit; as an alternative of actually reckoning with the interior workings of little Jude, the movie can write his conduct off as magical jiggery-pokery with a easy repair.

A grim man and his wife attempt a heart-to-heart with the evil porcelain doll and their worried-looking young son.

Picture: STXfilms

Snatches of eccentricity sneak in to the midsection, a mass of flab even because it occupies a fraction of the movie’s slim 86-minute whole. Dependable character actor Ralph Ineson perks up his scenes because the compulsory spooky groundskeeper, the one performer conscious of the minor-chord pipe-organ music implied in all their dialogue. Pound for pound, the setpieces don’t hit so arduous, with the marked exception of 1 sequence involving a damaged croquet stake, shot largely via an upstairs window overlooking the garden. The distancing impact gives the look of deliberate inventive motion that’s in any other case absent from Bell’s indifferently-shot video games of gotcha. (Sticking a jump-scare dream sequence inside a jump-scare dream sequence ought to be punishable by a hefty high quality.)

Bell has one way or the other made a profession for himself out of upward failure. Keep Alive, Disney’s dismal try at breaking into the slasher market, drew poisonous opinions and box-office receipts to match. His little-seen Wer received a Japanese launch in 2013, earlier than getting shuffled into the direct-to-video bin within the States. Regardless of one other spherical of panning, The Satan Inside stored him employable by proving he might pull a large payday out of a sleepy late-winter launch date, therefore The Boy and its unholy offspring.

He might most likely proceed to coast like this for the foreseeable future, churning out one other broad horror idea each couple years, for launch on an uncompetitive weekend. This previous week introduced the information that he’ll quickly sort out a prequel to 2009’s Orphan, one other alternative for a profitable phone-in. However not less than the movie’s working title is just Esther, and never Esther: Orphan II.

Brahms: The Boy II is in theaters now.