*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A Montana woman, Greta, gets a temporary job as a nanny and to her surprise is paid to look after a porcelain doll, which is treated like a living child by his parents.
Director William Brent Bell offers a creepy tale with plenty of shock scares. The typical British James Herbert-like setting of a large British aristocratic home with mature gardens adds to the sinister atmosphere. Lauren Cohan’s performance is excellent as Greta. As things go bump in the night with objects seemingly moving around reminiscent of Child Play, Dolly Dearest and Annabel to name a few, Cohan sells the fear factor. Bell ‘s production is polished, aided by its sound design, Bear McCreary’s score (who appears to be knocking them out in his sleep) and Brian Berdan’s editing add to the pace and atmosphere throughout.
Written by Stacey Menear, Greta’s back story and motivations are believable but it leads to a somewhat inevitable Cape Fear-esque appearance by Cole, Greta’s ex, played by Ben Robson. Rupert Evans gives a great understated performance as as Malcolm thanks to Delay’s dialogue. Still grieving for their son, both Jim Norton as Mr. Heelshire and Diana Hardcastle s Mrs. Heelshire are delightfully creepy and emulate the odd couple in Dolls (1987) as their intentions are tragically revealed. Notable are the scenes where Greta demonstrates Brahms’ ability to move by himself to Malcolm and when Greta is locked in the attic by an unseen force.
Although the lath reveals the house is state-side and not British, the excellent interiors and grounds really sell it. As with my incessant mention of other films it covers a lot of horror tropes. Those familiar with Housebound (2014) and an array of others will see the twist coming a mile off. If anything the rushed and jarring reveal takes away the suspense and tension finely built by Bell in the first three quarters with a Halloween masked phantom closing. That said, to Bell’s credit the ghoul remains masked retaining The Boy’s mystery. But the star of the show is the Brahms doll, which is just plain unnerving.
Those with pediophobia may want to avoid this at all costs but for the rest of us it’s a solid horror thriller that works best when its honing the psychological aspect and delivering jump scares.