Sunday 10 October 2021

Nerd Church - Why Doesn't the Brahms Doll In 'The Boy' (2016) Freak Me Out?!

(Warning: this post references domestic violence, and discusses elements of horror movies)

'Why Doesn't the Brahms Doll In 'The Boy' (2016) Freak Me Out?!' written in red spooky writing with a black background

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The Boy (2016)* is a horror film -

not to be confused with any other films called ‘The Boy’ or ‘Boy’, including, because the world is like this sometimes, The Boy (2015)

- about Greta (played by Lauren Cohan)  – an American chick who escapes her abusive ex by literally fleeing the continent, and taking a job as a nanny in the UK.

Only, when she’s introduced to Brahms, her charge while Mr and Mrs Heelshire -

(that name screams ‘I don’t know what to name these characters, call them something posh,’ doesn’t it?)

- head off on holidays, she’s more than a little weirded-out.

Because the kid she’s supposed to take of? The Boy, Brahms? – Is a porcelain doll.

Cue odd goings on, all alone with Brahms in a secluded mansion, with no mobile phone service and no Internet.

Apparently there's a stand-alone sequel to this film called, conveniently, Brahms: The Boy II.

I have no idea how something can be a 'stand-alone' sequel to this film, but maybe I'll give it a watch one of these days to find out 😉  

Now, dolls freak me the hell out.

Ever since the Sabrina the Teenage Witch episodes with Molly Dolly, I’ve been convinced they’re little demon-spawn.

So no-one has to convince me of the merits of a doll as a horror film device.

Brahms, though? Doesn’t freak me out. And I have no idea why.

Objectively, that is one creepy-a** doll. But… I’m not creeped out by it?

Mr Heelshire to Greta: Brahms is not like other children. *Cuts to the Brahms doll lying in bed*
Via Giphy

Maybe he’s far enough away from the Uncanny Valley – 

the point where something looks human, but not quite human, and is therefore terrifying to our hooman bean brains

 – for me to firmly place him in the not-a-people category.

Because, to me at least, Brahms is not realistic enough to be mistaken for human. Not close up anyway.

Maybe it also has something to do with him being a boy doll.

He’s not a baby doll – he looks like a little prep-school kid in his blazer and trousers, and we learn early on that the Heelshire’s original, human, son, also named Brahms, was lost in a fire at the age of about six.

Most dolls are, traditionally, little girls. Often, they’re babies or toddlers.

They’re the type of doll that we’re most familiar with – the type that we’ve seen in shops, houses, etc. - therefore when this type of doll turns stabby/demonic, it hits us harder because the familiar and seemingly innocent has been subverted, become dangerous.

Literal corruption of our childhoods and all that psychological jazz *waves hands vaguely towards slightly pretentious interpretations of human behaviour*

So maybe his prep-school boy doll status is less familiar to me, and so I see it as less of a threat – because I’ve never had a doll like that, so why would I care if it turns out to be possessed or something?

It’s a theory, but I’m not convinced that that’s why this doll is in the ‘not creepy’ box in my head.

So what else could it be?

Well, maybe it’s partly that this mansion is so full of creepy-a** antique sh**, that the doll is one of the least creepy things going on here. 😅

Maybe it’s because we never see the doll move on-screen – it only happens when Greta leaves the room, and we leave with her.


'The Boy' film poster/thumbnail showing Brahms sitting at the table

Or maybe it’s because the whole thing with the Brahms doll, and the way human-Brahms’ parents carry this doll around and treat the doll like their child is… pretty tragic.

It’s desperately sad.

And even though there are the inevitable twists and turns of horror films along the way, by the end it’s still just desperately, desperately sad.

(Though possibly not in the ways you’d think, dun-dun-duuun! I’m trying to avoid spoilers for you, dearest nerdlets, but there are a couple of dramatic twists in this film.)


And don’t get me wrong, we get just enough village-pub-gossip back-story to make me question wtaf did happen to make this series of events come to be

- but at the end of the day – it still seems like some sort of tragedy which involved a six year old child, and tore lives apart.

And that makes Brahms pitiful, to me at least, rather than scary.

Or maybe I’m overthinking this (wouldn’t be the first time) and the doll isn’t actually meant to be scary -

Maybe that’s the point. That we expect this doll to be terrifying, but it isn’t.

Because while early on, Greta finds the doll creepy, as things move on, she begins to treat him just as the parents do – like something precious, something to be protected.

(And actually, I find Greta's interactions with the doll, as if he is a person, far more uncomfortable than the doll itself.)  

Maybe we’re not meant to find this doll scary, because the real horror isn’t the doll

– it’s the world in which abusive exes can make you feel like leaving the country to escape them, a world where rich employers hire you under false circumstances, leave you isolated, and keep vital information from you.

A world in which there is a gravestone and a burnt-out window because of whatever ended up being true about what happened to a six year old boy.

In comparison to that? The Brahms doll isn’t that scary... is it?

What do you think?
Is the doll creepier than I seem to think?
Have you seen The Boy (2016)?
Talk to me! 

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  1. Haven't seen the movie, and to be honest, I probably never will as dolls freak me out as well! I do think horror is a fantastic genre and directors and writers are able to invoke such deep symbolism within classic tropes, such as creepy dolls. So from an appreciation perspective I get it. Just not for me!

    1. Ha, I'm *really* not a fan of creepy dolls, which is why this confused me! Lol.

  2. I was completely creeped out by this one, but now that I think about it, it was more because of the way they acted as if he was real than the physical doll itself.

    1. I know, right? Like, I'm with what's-his-name (Malcolm?) who's trying to be as nice and respectful and sensitive as possible but is still like, 'WTAF are you people doing? It's a *doll*'


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!