Brahms: The Boy II (Blu-ray review)

Katie Holmes is stuck at home with a possibly possessed doll; as are the rest of us, if we’re so inclined to check out the sequel to 2016’s surprise horror hit The Boy. Brahms: The Boy II was released about a month before the global pandemic would keep nearly all humans on planet earth indoors. Some would fill their time with cute, adorable fare like Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Others swung the other way, with more horrific forms of entertainment. In this era, mileage will vary on wanting to intentionally be trapped for nearly ninety minutes with Annabelle’s better-dressed spiritual sibling. I have kept up with the thrills (Contagion really holds up!). So does this Blu-ray release have inventive new ways to make us uncomfortable spending time looking into the dead-eyed stare of a creepy porcelain boy? Review after the jump.


After a burglary leaves a mother and her son in shock, a relocation to the English countryside feels like the right move. And it would be if Liza (Katie Holmes), her husband Sean, and their son Jude (Christopher Convery) didn’t move onto the Heelshire grounds. Sure, they’re staying in a small home off to the side, but the notorious mansion is only a few yards away.

Fans of The Boy will remember that four years ago, Greta (Lauren Cohan, on a break from The Walking Dead) was hired to take care of a doll in that big, spooky place. Things didn’t go well for her, so odds are the moment Jude finds that doll named Brahms in remarkably good condition, things are about to get creepy.

The main hook of the first film was the central mystery. The doll was to be cared for by Greta, which meant changing Braham’s clothes, preparing his meals, reading to him before bed, etc. At first, Greta thinks she’s getting paid a lot to be a “fake” nanny, but then things start to go missing, and doors slam in the middle of the night. Could it be that the doll is possessed?

The big reveal was pretty convoluted. From this reviewer’s POV, the last act was disappointing. What started as a weird tale about a person trying to get over PTSD (she was a survivor of domestic abuse) became a kind of silly soap opera about an old-timey family’s dirty secrets.

And yet, like Annabelle, the doll as a visual representation of suppressed fear and anger did work. I hoped that like Oujia and Annabelle, the sequel would be a significant leap over the original. It’s not, but I do think it’s better if only slightly. Those sequels were given new filmmakers to helm them like Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil), who later did the fantastic Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. Both Boy movies are directed by William Brent Bell. He definitely has a talent for making the doll unnerving while allowing the actors to reach for higher levels of despair than most studio horror movies do.

Katie Holmes brings joy and anger to a mother who wants best for her son but is wary of the cost. The home invasion opening left Jude to be mute, communicating to his parents with only a writing pad. Holmes brings generosity in the early scenes. She clearly thinks Brahms is disturbing (but hey, that doll CAN rock a suit), so she goes along with Jude’s therapist’s advice to let her son indulge in weird behavior. (Like making his meals, reading to him…) Eventually, Liza unravels, and while Boy II isn’t The Babadook, Holmes effectively makes us afraid of her. Who knew little Joey from the Dawson’s Creek had it in her?

As Jude, Convery (Stranger Things) is stronger in the first half in a mostly wordless performance. His cherub-like face and tiny mannerisms make him likable from frame one. Yet we also see how Jude struggles with is self-imposed isolation. He wants to be a good kid but is pulled into the “friendship” of Brahms. In the last section, though, well, I’m not sure the actor knows how to sell a campy performance.

The script by Stacey Menear (who also wrote the first film) is great at setting up situations that quickly escalate. He also knows how to let Brahm dictate the narrative even though it’s an inanimate object… for the most part.  The tonal shift leading into the finale makes me think if they did make a third film, it could be totally full-on bonkers. Boy, I’d be on board for that.



  • Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Resolution: 1080P
  • Aspect Ratio: 2:39:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Brahams’ porcelain face is super sharp. The few outdoor scenes also boast excellent detail amongst a lush forest.
  • Depth: The rooms are small, which adds to the claustrophobic nature of horror, but visually, space is well rendered.
  • Black Levels: Black levels are mostly strong, but there are a few moments where crushed blacks were evident. Holmes’s dark hair would sometimes disappear in a dimly lit room.
  • Color Reproduction: The Boy films tend to revel in colors that can be described as “tasteful.” The bold green that adorns the family’s walls or the strong reds that pop Jude’s sketches are faithfully represented.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are natural and well rendered.
  • Noise/Artifacts: None were present that affected the viewing experience.


  • Audio Format(s): DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit), French, Portuguese, Spanish all 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
  • Dynamics: From the jump scare music booms to the tiny whispers of a boy talking to his doll, the range is solid for a thriller like Brahams. The tiny clinks when Holmes taps Brahm’s face is perfectly creepy.
  • Low-Frequency Extension: There are plenty of low hums throughout that add to the tension.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Sounded strong with my Sony soundbar.
  • Height: From Brahms spooky mansion to the hallways of a modern British home, the use of spacial sound is solid.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is loud and clear.


Brahams: The Boy II has three extras, and only two are on the disc. The content is fine, but considering Katie Holmes hasn’t been in a whole lot lately (let alone horror), I was bummed there was no behind-the-scenes featurette or commentary track supplied.

  • Director’s Cut: Only available via the digital copy, this cut is four minutes longer than the theatrical version.
  • Alternate Ending (HD, 8:25): Though it plays out for nearly ten minutes, this is almost identical to the original ending, except it doesn’t have the final scene. I do, however, prefer the look of the doll here (although the VFX work is clearly not finished) more than in the final version.
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes (HD, 9:32 total runtime): Six scenes. The best (and shortest) concerns a doll maker.


While not the leap in quality that other new horror franchise sequels have recently been, Brahams: The Boy II is still an improvement over the original. And both films have had made terrific casting choices in their leading actresses. Holmes delivers an engaging performance. And the decision to lean into the supernatural more does work for fun B-movie thrills. The tension works, the cast is solid, and Brahams’ always looks dapper. For horror fans like myself, that is mostly enough.

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