When Londoners Liza and son Jude are attacked by masked intruders in the dead of night, the results are what you might expect. Jude is emotionally traumatized—leaving him perpetually cringing at any small disturbance and unable to communicate verbally. And Liza, feeling physically and emotionally battered, is plagued with headaches and nightmares, too.
Liza’s husband, Sean, decides they should make a change. Specifically, moving their family away from the constant reminders of the assault in their London flat. Soon, they head off to the country and rent a lovely guest house situated behind an old, empty manor.
Sure, that manor is rather crumbling and spooky looking. But it’s being renovated by its wealthy-but-absent owner, so there’s no need to worry over it. In fact, there’s no one even around, other than a stalwart groundskeeper who keeps vandals at bay.
It’s all good, and Liza and Jude can finally get some fresh air and wooded-country quiet. It’s a lovely place for Sean to get away and do his writing, too.
Things do take an odd turn, though, when young Jude finds a half-buried, antique porcelain doll in the woods while the family is out on a walk. I mean, who would bury an old doll like that? And why? Jude takes an instant liking to the dirt-encrusted thing, so Liza and Sean decide to take it home and clean it up for him to play with.
Yes, the child-sized doll is rather creepy looking with its blank, porcelain-smooth features and natty little suit. But Jude is suddenly more animated around it. And if a strange doll can help the boy break out of his frightened funk, well, maybe it’s worth keeping.
Jude’s therapist agrees. In fact, when Liza and Sean give the woman a call, she praises their choice and sends them some links that suggest dolls can be great ways for traumatized kids to work through their feelings.
That choice initially seems to be a good one. Jude starts drawing more. He gives the doll the name Brahms. And the boy even writes out a list of made-up rules that will make the doll feel safe. Then Liza and Sean actually overhear Jude talking to the thing. That’s a major breakthrough!
Of course, objective observers looking in from the outside, might not be as excited about a boy and his creepy doll whispering secrets to each other. They might blanch a bit at a family following a doll’s rules. And they’d likely question whether it’s a good thing that a boy and his doll start dressing alike and looking alike.
In fact, any sane Londoner looking on would surely tap Liza and Sean on the shoulder and say …
“’S’cuse me, have either of you ever watched a horror flick on the telly?”
The first movie in this franchise ended with a real-world, physical and psychological reason for the creepy things that happened in it. This one, in contrast, aims more squarely at the idea of possession by a demonic spiritual entity.
At first, the story teases the suggestion that a battered Liza might be suffering from mental trauma, causing her to see things that aren’t really there. But that’s quickly tossed aside, and the doll’s movements and actions are tied directly to a dark spiritual presence. That evil entity moves the doll around, lifts a man aloft and smashes a table.
Liza finds evidence that many families have died in connection with this wicked spirit. In fact, when the porcelain doll’s face is smashed, we see a rotting, corpse-like thing underneath. Eventually, Jude and another person are spiritually possessed by the being.
Liza wears a thin nightie on several occasions.
When masked thieves break into their flat, Liza and Jude are slammed into walls and manhandled. Liza attempts to fight back before being hit with a heavy object and knocked unconscious. After that, she has several nightmares in which she’s physically grabbed by the throat and slammed up against a wall.
As Jude is slowly possessed by Brahms, the boy’s favorite stuffed bear is torn apart. Then Jude draws pictures of a boy stabbing a dog and killing his parents. (They’re childish crayon sketches include splashes of red blood colored in.) We later see a dog that has indeed been killed and left gutted in the woods; its body is mangled and a bit bloody. Another corpse-like creature sports rotting flesh covered in lice. A young boy falls backward and is impaled through the shoulder on a small, broken and sharp-pointed post. Several adults grab the moaning and writhing child and take him to the hospital.
We see online stories about several families that were brutally murdered. A man gets hit in the face with a shotgun stock and knocked out. Later, that same man is lifted aloft and slammed into a wall on the other side of the room.
A living creature is thrown into a blazing furnace.
Two s-words are joined by a use of “h—” and a misuse of Christ’s name.
Liza and another woman drink wine while talking. Liza and Sean also have wine with their dinner.
Jude’s visiting cousin is a bully who calls him a “nutter” and “mental” while pushing Jude around.
The Boy had little to praise back in 2016. It was barely palatable then, and any positives were thanks to a solid lead performance and a horror-story twist that was only plausible if you tried really, really hard.
However, you’ll have to squint even harder to find a message or meaning in this forgettable sequel. It starts off with a young, emotionally damaged boy finding a creepy, filth-covered porcelain doll buried in the woods, followed by his mom cheerily suggesting they should take it home with them. I mean, at this point, all bets are off. Even the most laissez-faire parent would likely say, “Step away from that nasty thing this instant!” Instead, this mom lets her son cuddle up to it like a pristine plushy, and he starts obeying its secretly whispered list of rules.
After that eye-rolling premise, this horror pic becomes less and less credible—not to mention and less and less watchable—by the second. In fact, its logic heads south with the same speed you’d expect a typical mom to head toward a trash bin with a plastic bag full of gunk-encrusted porcelain doll.
So, as a helpful reviewer, I’ll gently suggest that you step away from this nasty thing this instant, too.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.