Dir. William Brent Bell (2016)
An American woman with a tragic history is hired to babysit a British couple's son. Upon arriving, she finds out that their son is actually a porcelain doll. This becomes even creepier than it sounds.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
Director William Brent Bell has made several horror movies at this point in his career, but he's most well-known for 2012's The Devil Inside. I absolutely hated that movie, as did most of the people who watched it from what I'm seeing. That film is known for having a fairly strong beginning and middle, certainly lacking in some areas but not terrible overall, and then completely shitting the bed in the third act. Let's just say that this one takes a slightly different path to get there.
I've always had an irrational fear of porcelain dolls. Well, not irrational, those things are creepy as fuck, but I'm afraid of them nonetheless. And not even really afraid, just kinda creeped out. I had to stay for like two weeks with my aunt in Alabama when I was a kid, and she had this super-creepy doll that sat upright in a chair in the room I was sleeping. I was not allowed to touch it, but I was quite sure it was going to end up touching me.
Needless to say, with that history, I found Brahms the doll-child quite eerie, which I'm sure was very much intended. Greta (Lauren Cohan) is hired by an elderly British couple to watch their child, who ends up being the aforementioned doll. She isn't particularly thrilled, but money is money, so she agrees to stay. There are a ton of rules she has to follow to babysit him, and when the couple announces that they're going on vacation, she immediately throws all of those rules out the window and goes about her business, ignoring the doll.
The old man tells the girl before they leave that if she is nice to Brahms, he will be nice to her. If she's not, then... well, we don't find out the rest, but the audience understands moreso than Greta that he's clearly warning her. After she ignores his instructions, the doll starts causing trouble by moving things, stealing her clothes, and other small changes that are more irritation than scary. Of course, knowing that the only other "person" in the house with her is a doll, Greta is shaken, calling on the only friend she has in town, a man named Malcolm (Rupert Evans) who delivers groceries to the old couple. He eventually believes her after she demonstrates that the doll moves of its own accord.
Her dark past comes into play later in the movie, when it is revealed that her ex-boyfriend beat her when she was pregnant, resulting in the death of her child. He later shows up at the house, having tracked her down, and ends up breaking Brahms when he realizes that everyone seems to think he's alive. This brings about the film's twist ending, which, to be frank, was actually a pretty decent twist. I wasn't expecting it, which says a lot about this film as compared with most horror movies with a twist.
I won't give away the ending here: it's still too new of a movie for that to not be a dick move. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the ending much more than the events leading up to it, and while most of the movie was boring, the ending brought it home.
Don't get me wrong: I get that a movie can be "boring" for most of its runtime and still be a worthwhile endeavor. Hell, most Hitchcock movies are "boring," as is most suspense in general, but that doesn't mean that it's filler or worthless. It takes a good filmmaker to make a worthwhile film out of an hour or more of runtime in which nothing happens. Unfortunately for us, Bell is not that good of a filmmaker. This one was certainly better than The Devil Inside, but that's not saying a whole lot. I would definitely recommend watching it, just for one of the more batshit insane endings in recent memory (think Goodnight Mommy kinda insanity), but that's about it.
Who this movie is for: Modern horror fans, Slow-burn horror nuts, Doll collectors
Bottom Line: Not a great movie, but worth a watch I suppose, especially if you're creeped out by dolls. I think I'll probably pass if I see another of Bell's films coming down the pipeline, though I suppose there's value in a three-strikes-you're-out rule. Cohan isn't bad, but she's about all that works in this film.