The Boy

Next month brings the sequel to the satisfying and surprising horror movie The Boy. Director William Brent Bell and writer Stacey Menear are back for Brahms: The Boy II, and so is the creepy doll that terrified everyone in the first movie.

/Film was lucky enough to be invited to visit the set of the horror sequel last year to meet Brahms and visit his historical home, and we’ll have more on that later this week. But during that visit, we learned about an impressive visual effect that was utilized in the film’s climax, and it’s almost as surprising as the twist ending of the movie itself. Find out more below, but beware of spoilers for The Boy.

In The Boy, released back in 2016, a young American woman named Greta (Lauren Cohan), takes a job as a nanny for an 8-year old boy named Brahms in a small British village. However, she’s a little unnerved to find that Brahms is actually a life-size doll with a porcelain face. The boy’s parents treat the doll as if it’s human, coping with the death of their real son 20 years prior. The care of the doll comes with a list of strict rules, and when the nanny starts to defy them, she comes to learn that there’s more than meets the eye with this creepy little boy.

Throughout the movie, some seemingly supernatural things seem to take place as it appears the doll might actually be alive. A child’s sobs are heard in the hallways, phone calls are cut off, and the doll seems throughout the house, vanishing and reappearing in other rooms when Greta isn’t paying attention. But the doll isn’t alive at all.

In the shocking climax of the movie, the real Brahms, now a grown man, is revealed to be living in the walls of the house, which are full of secret passages. Once he makes himself known, he creeps out of a trick mirror, wearing a horrifying porcelain mask that resembles the doll Greta has started to fear. And while we were speaking with director William Brent Bell about the sequel, he revealed the mask Brahms wears was added entirely in post-production and wasn’t part of the original character design at all

The Boy

Here’s Bell explaining how the digital mask came about in post-production:

“When we shot the movie, he had no mask on. He just was a guy with a beard, and he looked crazy coming out of the walls. When we tested the movie, it tested really well and everybody liked the movie. And then we asked questions. We were like ‘Okay, the third act, when the twist happens, the twist was cool. Were you scared by the guy that came out of the walls?’ [And the reaction was,] ‘Not that scared, but yeah, kinda scared.'”

That’s not quite the reaction the filmmakers were hoping for, so producer Roy Lee suggested the idea of using visual effects to put a mask on Brahms. Keep in mind that this had to be done without any facial makers to track movement or anything like that. It had to be done frame-by-frame. It cost $150,000. And yet we would have never known if they didn’t tell us.

What’s cool about the post-production process for the mask was that they were able to try out a variety of different options. The final mask we see in the movie wasn’t the only design they came up with. While they were figuring out what mask to use, they were able to swap out different models to figure out which one worked the best. Here are some of the other options:

The Boy - Alternate Masks

Of course, they had the challenge of working with actor James Russell‘s scraggly long hair and scruffy beard to get the mask right, but the results were impressive, and the next test screening reactions improved greatly. Unfortunately for James Russell, that meant his face was completely obscured in what would have been a breakthrough role for the guy. And while the filmmakers felt bad about that, it ended up being the best decision for the movie.

For Brahms: The Boy II, that mask doesn’t need to be added with visual effects anymore. Instead, the digital mask was used as a reference to make a practical mask, which you’ll see on the big screen next month. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for the debut of the first trailer for Brahms: The Boy II, and on Thursday we’ll have our full set report for the horror sequel.

Brahms: The Boy II arrives in theaters on February 21, 2020.

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