When I first heard about this movie, I was intrigued to see what they were going to do with it. I was late to the game with the first one, but after seeing it, I really enjoyed it. I didn't necessarily think it was the best film, but it did some really good things. I ended up having an afternoon off from work and decided to check this out. The synopsis is after a family moves into the Heelshire Mansion. Their young son makes friends with a life-like doll called Brahms.
We start this movie off with Liza (Katie Holmes) coming home from work. In the background we see someone out of focus as she is calling out to her son. She goes into the kitchen where he scares her. His name is Jude (Christopher Convery). The both of them call her husband and his father, Sean (Owain Yeoman). The two settle in for the night, but something wakes up Liza. They're the victim of a home invasion.
It then shows us the aftermath. Liza is having nightmares and refuses to talk about it to anyone. Jude hasn't talked since the incident. He's going to see a Dr. Lawrence (Anjali Jay) to help get over the events of that night. It is decided though they're going to move out of the city for awhile.
This takes them to what used to be a guest house to a large manor. They take the place and try to settle in with this change of pace. The family goes for a walk through the woods and Jude hears whispering. This leads him to digging up an old porcelain doll. The parents also find the house from the original movie and together they encounter Joseph (Ralph Ineson) and his dog. Jude is allowed to keep the doll, but after his mother cleans it up.
She notices during this that it's been broken and repaired. I don't recall if that happened in the previous movie, but I feel like it did. Regardless, she gives it to Jude and he also discovers a letter that comes with it giving its 10 rules. Liza isn't a fan of it, but when Jude starts to make progress, it becomes a struggle of the fear of the creepy doll that tells Jude his name is Brahms or preventing him from getting better. Things start to get quite weird with some of the drawings that Jude does or he's slowly starting to look more and more like his new favorite doll.
What is really interesting to me is how low of a rating I saw for this after leaving the theater on the Internet Movie Database. I was also equally shocked to see that the director was the same from the first movie, William Brent Bell, and the same writer, Stacey Menear. The reason I say this is the fact that nothing gets under my skin more than violating continuity for a movie with a sequel. I think there might be slightly some of this, but I actually think this does well in deepening the story without doing that in major ways.
I'm going to be non-spoiler here and I don't really think there's enough to go spoiler either. This movie though does do some things I really liked. What I want to go over first would be our three leads first. First we have Liza. She's 'normal' until the attack through the home invasion. I like that she becomes the one who is more against Brahms, but she's also an unreliable person. Even her husband gets to the point where he is questioning her more than Jude and I like that. It is subtle though where it is believable.
I want to shift to Jude next here. Much like his mother, he's traumatized by this event and his way of coping is to not talk. He has a pad of paper he writes things down on to communicate. His parents are being patient and even more so when Dr. Lawrence tells them not to push so he doesn't go farther into his shell. It becomes a strange duality that Liza is noticing some dark aspects to her son, but he is also showing progress. I thought that was an interesting thing to explore here.
Since I'm not going to spoil, I'll tip toe around what happened in the first and how this works into this one. I do like they're using the same place, doll and that the events really did happen. We even get them introduced through some investigation and explanation. That was all good for me. It would be hard to do something like they did in that one so I like what they do and the history that is revealed about this doll as well. For me, it worked. I do think it is slightly a cheat, but I'm willing to overlook if I'm honest.
Moving this to the pacing, this is where I had my biggest problem. I just had trouble paying attention to this for the most part. That's not to say it was boring, because I don't feel that is the case. I think that it really does well in establishing our characters, getting them to new place where the doll is found. This section is where I lost some interest. It is funny though, the original had the main character that was following the rules where this one they're being violated pretty much constantly. I think that's where part of my issues comes from. There really isn't much in the way of repercussions for that. It might have been better suited to have Liza or even Sean tormented differently than what we got. I was on board though for the research and thought that the ending worked as well.
Taking this to the acting I thought it was pretty solid. There's something interesting that Holmes stars here. She seems to be the only one that is not British, even though it takes place in the United Kingdom. It doesn't hurt anything and I think she had a good performance. It was something I just thought of while watching this as it is never addressed. Yeoman was solid as the 'stable' parent who tries to be peace keeper. I also thought that Convery was really good. What is interesting is we see him normal briefly, then for most of the movie he has to convey things with his facial expressions. We slowly see him change to be more like Brahms as things progress which I thought was great. Ineson was solid along with the rest of the cast to round this out for what was needed.
As for the effects in this one, I actually really don't have much negative to say if I'm honest. From what I remember in the original, the doll seemed to move, but we never saw it. This one we actually get to see the doll move and with the explanation that comes, it makes we wonder now if that was also possible in the original as well, at least at times. This can be subtle sometimes which makes it even better. I say this with a scene in the dark with a flashlight that I thought I saw something that did creep me out. There is a bit of CGI, not enough to bother me. It really seemed to enhance if memory serves. The last thing would be something that happens at the end I thought was a cool look. The cinematography I thought was really good though. They really use the whole frame where we will see things in the background that are blurry to be a bit unnerving, as well as seeing things move as well.
The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. From what I can remember, it fit for what was needed on the whole. What I wanted to bring up is that early on, Jude is playing a little piano and I'm pretty sure the song he's playing was used in the previous film. That is a good callback and then we get to see something at the main house as well which I'm assuming was that sheet music. It is an older song which makes it even better.
Now with that said, I tried to come in without any expectations and having only seen the original once, I was a pretty blank slate. Do I think this is a great film? No, but I think it does some good things. I like the depth of the characters and the actor performance in bringing them to life. There are some interesting back-story elements that are introduced with minimal violation of continuity. The effects worked for what was needed and I'd say that the soundtrack fit as well. The only issue I really had here was that I found it to be a bit boring for whatever reason and I think it is what they focused on. I would say though this is slightly over average for me. Not great, but as a sequel it works and could be watched as a stand alone which I find impressive.
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