LOS ANGELES, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Brahms doll is back to terrorize new victims in Brahms: The Boy II, but he has more than box office grosses to thank for his sequel. Director William Brent Bell says it was Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, who generated interest in a Boy sequel.
"The doll became kind of an Internet meme with Jared Kushner," Bell told UPI in a phone interview. "Everybody was comparing him to Jared Kushner."
The Brahms doll is an inanimate figure that terrorizes a nanny in the original film. Bell said Internet users became creative by inserting Brahms over photographs of Kushner.
"A couple months ago, [Kushner] was on the cover of Time," Bell said. "Then there were a lot of memes with the doll on the cover of Time. It was perfect."
It wasn't Bell's idea to capitalize on the Kushner memes. Producer Gary Lucchesi saw the phenomenon as a form of viral premarketing.
"After about six months of that, Gary called me and said, 'Listen, the doll is really living a new life of his own without the movie,'" Bell said. "So I got together with the producers and we kind of cracked the basic storyline. Stacey Menear, the writer, came in and filled in the gaps."
The Boy II does not mention Kushner. "No, we didn't," Bell said. "We let the story stay in its lane."
With or without Kushner, Bell said there was more story to tell with The Boy. The first film suggested additional questions when the twist was revealed. In the original film, a grown-up Brahms Heelshire (James Russell) was living in the walls of Heelshire Manor and moving the doll to drive Greta (Lauren Cohan) crazy.
"It kind of opened up ideas of what happened to him," Bell said. "How did he end up there? Of course, the doll is really the crux of it all, so we put our focus on the doll again."
The doll does not survive the first film, but like Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees before him, death never stopped a movie monster.
"In the first movie, he gets his head smashed and he's just left lying on the ground," Bell said. "We never really come back to him. So the question became how do we introduce the doll in the sequel?"
Bell rejected the suggestion that Brahms ended up on a toy store shelf. He opted to bring a new family to Heelshire Manor. Young Jude (Christopher Convery) digs Brahms out of the ground.
"I love the visual of unburying this doll," Bell said. "Then the question is why was the doll buried? That's a great question. I don't know the answer yet, back then. It's provocative. What's going on here? That's not normal. So then we let that play into the mythology."
Liza (Katie Holmes) moves her son, Jude, and her husband, Sean (Owain Yeoman), to Heelshire Manor after a home invasion traumatizes them.
"From that point forward, the boy doesn't speak anymore," Bell said. "He's having nightmares. So they had the idea of let's get out of the city and let's rent a house. The husband can work remotely and just spend some time away to heal.
"Unfortunately, the guest house that they move into is Heelshire Manor from the first film and they don't realize that until it's too late."
The Boy II can't pull the same twist as the first movie. Bell said the sequel is more supernatural than the original.
"This time around, let's explore the supernatural side of it and almost explain the reason the guy in the walls was evil to begin with is because that doll, indeed, had an evil to it," Bell said. "It possesses somebody to turn in on themselves."
Bell still leaves a few mysteries for Brahms: The Boy II viewers to experience. Liza may find the dining room table flipped over while her back is turned. One of Jude's playmates may have a tragic accident. Bell suggests the horrific events of the film could have many possible explanations.
"Is the kid doing it?" Bell said. "Is his doll doing it? Is mom going crazy and imagining things? It becomes a question of is the doll causing these things to happen? Is the son indeed scarred for life from that experience and he's starting to become a madman on his own?"
Still, none of this would have been possible without Brahms fans' observations about Jared Kushner.
"It just kind of clicked, certainly in Gary's head," Bell said. "The doll didn't go away with the movie. The doll is still hanging around, so we have something that interested people."
Brahms: The Boy II is in theaters Friday.