Tag Archives: F


Producers: Matt Berenson, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Eric Reid, Roy Lee, Jim Wedaa and Richard S. Wright   Director: William Brent Bell   Screenplay: Stacey Menear   Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Jay, Oliver Rice, Natalie Moon and Daphne Hoskins   Distributor: STXfilms

Grade:  F

This sequel to the 2016 horror movie looks good, with an elegant production design by John Willett and handsome cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub.  Otherwise it has almost nothing to recommend it, despite the efforts of a game cast.

The first movie was about a murderous boy who hid for decades in the crawlspaces behind the walls of his family’s remote estate, apparently possessed by the power of a demonic doll.  It was incredibly silly; this on, which comes from the same writer and director, is even more laughable.

The picture begins with Liza (Katie Holmes) and her darling son Jude (Chistopher Convery) traumatized by home invaders while her husband Sean (Owain Yeoman) is away.  As a result Jude no longer speaks, conversing only through written messages, and with the approval of his therapist (Anjali Jay), the family moves to the guest house attached to the estate where the first film occurred, now an unoccupied ruin watched by a caretaker named Joseph (Ralph Ineson).

While walking the grounds with his parents, Jude uncovers the buried doll, now restored to pristine shape, and is immediately attached to it.  He takes it home, and they become bosom companions.  Though Sean is distinctly slow on the uptake, Liza quickly suspects that the doll , which tells Jude its name is Brahms, has a malign influence on her son, and bad things soon begin to occur. 

So what do the couple do?  Why, they invite over some relatives, including Jude’s young cousin, who begins taunting the boy about his attachment to the doll.  This, of course, is not a good idea, and before you can say croquet (a game whose implements play a considerable role in the latter stages of the movie), Liza and Jude are alone again as the others are off on a hospital run. 

But a dangerous visitor will show up with a bundle of exposition, explaining that Jude is but the latest in a string of boys that the doll has seduced generation after generation.  Before long the kid is back in the cellar of the estate, donning the porcelain mask of Brahms that the murderous hiding man had worn in the first movie and threatening his own mother, just as his possessed predecessors had menaced and killed theirs.  In this case, however, Sean is around to intervene with one of those trusty croquet mallets.

Even on its own ludicrous terms, “Brahms” doesn’t make a lick of sense; the makers’ goal is apparently to fashion a gender-altered version of the unaccountably successful “Annabelle” movies in the hope of starting a new franchise.  But although they tack on a perfunctory coda suggesting that Brahms isn’t done with Jude yet—quite a stretch considering that the malevolent creature, his hideous form revealed when the porcelain is shattered, has apparently been roasted in a furnace—it’s completely implausible that any further installments should be expected, since thanks to Bell’s tepid direction, “Brahms” is, quite simply, one of the dullest, most insipid horror movies of recent years.

Of course, these quickie flicks are very inexpensive to produce, and need only a decent opening weekend to break even, so anything is possible.  Brahms wrote four symphonies, after all, so we might be unlucky enough to get two more movies named after him.  You’d be wise to listen to his music instead.    


Producers: Jason Blum, Marc Toberoff and Jeff Wadlow   Director: Jeff Wadlow   Screenplay: Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs   Cast: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O. Yang, Portia Doubleday, Ryan Hansen, Parisa Fitz-Henley and Michael Rooker   Distributor: Sony Entertainment/Columbia Pictures

Grade:  F

The original ABC TV series of “Fantasy Island,” which ran from 1978 to 1984, might have been a pretty horrible program, but it wasn’t a genuine horror.  That’s what producer Jason Blum and writer-director Jeff Wadlow, who previously collaborated on the awful “Truth or Dare,” have made of it—a horror movie that’s genuinely horrible, its stupidity being exceeded only by its dullness.

In a move that recalls ABC’s attempted 1998 reboot of the original, which bombed of course, Wadlow and his co-writers have ratcheted up the supernatural elements of the premise while emphasizing their potentially fatal consequences.  The fantasies here turn out to be more nightmarish than satisfying as they collide and replace ostensible hopefulness into what emerges as nothing more than a contrived revenge plot, complete with zombie-like villains.

The picture begins with Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley and her boss, the mysterious Mr. Roarke (colorless Michael Peña), welcoming their five new guests, who have each won trips to the purported paradise.  Brothers JD (Ryan Hansen, obnoxious in Dax Shepard mode) and Brax (goofy Jimmy O. Yang), who want the “time of their lives;” Patrick (stolid Austin Stowell), who wants to play soldier to honor his dead soldier dad; Melanie (Lucy Hale), a hottie who, in turns out, fantasizes about humiliating Sloane (Portia Doubleday), the mean girl  from her past; and Gwen (subdued Maggie Q), a reserved woman still grieving her failure to accept the marriage proposal offered by Rocklin (Robbie Jones) years before.

The fantasies—which, Roarke warns them, will have to follow the “natural course” determined by the island to their ends—begin, but they quickly grow awry and begin to intersect in weird ways.  Other figures intrude on the action, among them a grizzled guy in the forest (Michael Rooker) who shows up when characters get into trouble and a character called Devil Face (Kim Coates), who leads a squad of masked gunmen.  Even Patrick’s dead father shows up.

As things grow more and more complicated, the movie becomes decidedly chaotic, and it takes more attention than the material deserves to keep things straight, especially since the script is constantly tossing in contrived plot curveballs, which in the last act culminate in a series of revelations and resolutions so absurd that they leave the movie a complete mess.  Along the way, there are a few gross moments (like a “Hostel” reminiscence early on), but generally the picture moseys along surprisingly pokily, overstaying its welcome by clocking in at nearly two full hours.       

You have to give a certain degree of credit, though, to the behind-the-camera craftsmen (save for Wadlow, of course, whose direction is pedestrian).  Marc Fisichella’s production design has some elegance, and cinematographer Toby Oliver provides glossy widescreen images; and one feels sorry for editor Scott Albertson, who tries desperately to give shape and coherence to the constantly shifting storylines, even  if he doesn’t always succeed.  Bear McCreary’s score, though, bangs away mercilessly.

As usual nowadays, the movie concludes with the suggestion of forthcoming sequels (along with an especially lame “reveal”).  By the close of the movie though, you’ll definitely be inclined to agree with the survivor who acidly remarks that she just wants to get off this damned “Island.”