A driver is escorting Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan) to the Heelshire Manor, where she is hoping to work as a nanny for the only child, Brahms. The path leading to the house is rather secluded, with forests all around.
Upon arriving, Greta is awed by the manor. It's a very old-fashioned stone house. Since she fell asleep, the driver went ahead and packed her things inside. He tells her she is to wait in the parlor before driving off.
Greta goes in the house and is about to go in before she figures she should take off her shoes. She sets it by the door and calls out. No one comes to greet her, but she hears a rustling upstairs, almost like footsteps. She hesitantly goes up the staircase a bit and calls out again. Along the stairs is a huge painted family portrait of the Heelshires. It’s clear they are a very regal family.
Hearing nothing, she moves on to a room filled with old-fashioned toys. She picks one up and laughs a bit before being completely startled by a noise behind her.
It’s Malcolm (Rupert Evans), standing at the doorway. He’s the grocery boy that comes weekly to bring produce for the Heelshires. They introduce each other, and he asks to have her help in packing the groceries away.
They chat, and he’s obviously already smitten by Greta, but she remains polite. We find out that Greta is an American, who has moved to the UK for the first time to work for the Heelshires.
He tells her his grandma read tea leaves, and his mother reads palms. When she asks what he reads, he replies with ‘gum.' Playing along, she gives him the gum she’s been chewing on. He makes a cliché reading that doesn’t impress her very much. He tries again with a second, saying that she is running from a bad past. This evidently hits close to home as Greta instantly shutters. He tries to play it off, but Greta pushes past it and asks Malcolm what the Heelshires are like, as no one have made an appearance yet.
He says they are nice enough and very generous. He starts to say something about Brahms, but he is stopped by the arriving of Mrs. Heelshire (Diana Hardcastle). She’s doesn’t look kindly upon Greta and instantly notices her sock-clad feet. Greta says she left her shoes by the front and not wanting to displease Mrs. Heelshire, runs to get it.
However, her shoes are gone. Mrs. Heelshire waves it off, saying Brahms likes to play. She asks Greta to put other shoes on, and they will meet the rest of the family. On the way, Mrs. Heelshire says she hopes that Greta works out because they have tried with other nannies in the past. She notes that Greta is much younger and prettier than the others, so hopefully Brahms will take a liking to her. Before arriving at the parlor, they can hear Mr. Heelshire talking softly to Brahms, telling him to behave. When Mr. Heelshire stands up, Greta sees that Brahms is just a life-like porcelain doll.
They introduce her to Brahms, and she just stares disbelievingly at the doll before laughing, thinking it’s a joke. However, her amusement dies off upon the very serious looks of Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire. Malcolm, however, steps in and tells the Heelshires that their food is packed, and he will be back next week. He steps past Greta, and takes Brahms’s doll hand and shakes it, telling him that he will see Brahms next week. Upon the interaction, Mrs. Heelshire smiles dotingly. Malcolm leaves, but not before shooting Greta a look that says “just play along.”
Greta takes the doll’s arm and says with a forced smile that she hopes they can be friends.
After, Mrs. Heelshire shows her around the kitchen, saying that they never dispose of leftovers. They have a special area that they put in, some sort of portable fridge container off to the side. Mr. Heelshire takes her outside and tells her about the traps around they have to trap vermin. He doesn’t think it’s necessary but tells her Mrs. Heelshire is worried about rats in the walls. He also mentions all the windows are painted shut, as in accidently (but it doesn’t sound like it). At the end of the walk, Mr. Heelshire has a very serious moment with Greta and tells her things are not always what they appear to the outside (or something like that). It’s supposed to reassure her.
In the study, Mrs. Heelshire says that music very important to Brahms. During all this, she holds and coddles the doll, which is off-putting to Greta. Mrs. Heelshire puts the needle on the record, and extremely loud operatic music plays. In the bedroom, Mrs. Heelshire tells her that Greta is to wake Brahms up at 7 am every day and to change him. She wants Greta to do it, but her movements are clumsy on account that it’s a doll.
The family puts Brahms to bed. While Greta watches from the doorway, the Heelshires pray. Mrs. Heelshire turns to Greta and asks for privacy. Mr. Heelshire shuts the door on her. She can hear hushed talking from the two for a minute before the door abruptly opens. Mrs. Heelshire tells her with a tremulous smile, “Brahms has chosen you.”
In her room, Greta talks to Sandy (a close friend or sister) from home. She explains the extremely creepy situation to her. Sandy agrees that it is weird but tells her to stick with it because Greta needs this second chance. This segues into Sandy saying that Cole stopped by her house again, demanding where Greta is. Greta panics a little but Sandy told her she didn’t tell him anything. Obviously, someone from Greta’s ‘bad past’.
The next day, the Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire are going away on a mini vacation that they’ve wanted to go to but couldn’t since there wasn’t a caregiver for Brahms. They leave Greta with a printed list of explicit rules.
Some of them are:
Play loud music
Don’t leave Brahm
Before they go, Mrs. Heelshire hugs Greta and tears up, strangely whispering to her, “I’m sorry.”
As soon as they leave, Greta puts Brahms on a chair and apologizes before tossing a blanket over him.
There’s not much to do in the house, so Greta makes herself a PB+J sandwich and pours some wine. She throws the food waste in the trash. She settles in the parlor to read some magazines. It starts pouring rain outside. She walks past the covered doll a few times when she refills her drink. She heads upstairs to go to bed and glances down the hall where the doll is, but this time, the blanket is off the doll. She’s a bit unnerved and, annoyed at her reaction, roughly puts the doll in the bedroom and locks it.
Greta goes to bed but wakes upon hearing what sounds like a child wailing. She takes a candle and goes downstairs to check it out. On the way, she stops to look at the portrait and focuses on Brahms’s painted human face. She leans in close when an arm shoots out and reels her in.
Greta wakes up in a sweat. It was just a nightmare. She hears the muted wailing noise again. She peers in the Brahms’ bedroom, and the dolls is how she left it. She leans in close and sees the doll’s cheek is wet, like tear tracks. Greta is officially freaked but notices water dripping on it from a ceiling leak. She laughs it off.
She notices an attic in the ceiling when she goes out in the hallway and tries to open it with a large fire poker thing leaning against the wall but is unable to get the latch to come down. There’s a knock on the door, and she leaves it be.
It’s Malcolm, apologizing and also bringing Greta’s 1st-week paycheck. She wishes he warned her about the doll, but he doesn’t even know how to explain it. They take a walk outside around the Manor and Malcolm brings her to the actual Brahms’s grave. He lived from 1983 1991. Malcolm says not much is known, but Brahms passed away during a fire on his 8th birthday. Soon after, the doll showed up, and Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire have been taking care of the doll this whole time. Greta feels immediate sympathy and notes that Brahms would be Malcolm’s age had he lived, and she can’t believe that Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire have been living like this for 20 years. During all this, we get the impression that someone is watching them from the house.
Malcolm invites her out tonight to get away from the oppressive manor. Greta is unsure, stating she just got out of a “thing” (Cole), but Malcolm talks her into it. She agrees and they part ways to meet up later.
Later, Greta starts to get ready while talking to Sandy. Sandy is happy she’s moving on and that she needs it. Greta mentions the doll’s backstory and Sandy tells her again that she needs the money, which is really generous as that one week’s pay is more than what Sandy makes in a week. Sandy also mentions Cole again and how persistent he is being. Sandy reveals that Cole asked Sandy’s 10-year-old son where Greta is so he can write and apologize, and her kid told Cole where Greta is in the UK. Sandy apologizes, but Greta assures her she will not read anything from Cole. In Brahms’s room, we are focused on his porcelain face, and we realize he can hear everything as there is a system set up where the sound is amplified in his room so the doll can hear EVERYTHING.
Greta is starting to get excited about going out. She sets a coral dress aside in the bathroom along with her necklace before stepping into the shower. As she showers, something removes the dress and pulls the necklace away. Greta gets out, wraps a towel around herself and looks in the mirror. She notices that one end of her hair is a little shorn. Before she can freak out about it too much, she sees that her things are gone. She rushes into her bedroom to see all her drawers opened and all her clothes gone. She hears something and spins around. The attic is open, and the stairs are down. She takes the fire poker thing resting on the side and goes up, clutching her towel. As soon as she makes it past, the ladder lurches up and the attic slams shut. She is unable to open it.
She hears Malcolm’s car pulling up and tries to get his attention. However, she is so far up he cannot hear her. She tries to make noise by banging the iron poker against the walls, but it’s far too muted for him to hear. She can barely see him through the thick wooden boards (remember every window is pretty covered up or shut). She keeps trying until he leaves. Dejectedly, she looks around a little in the dark before a figure pops up at her. She is so startled she falls back and knocks herself out. In the morning, Greta wakes. She goes around and sees that the figure that startled her was just a suit that is hanging against the wall. She also sees that the ladder is down and the door open.
She calls Malcolm over to comb over the house. He looks at the attic stairs, and he barely touches it before it snaps upward and closes. He figures that’s how she got trapped up there. They spend some time together and play some pool. They go to the study to talk where she asks more about what Brahms was like. Malcolm isn’t entirely comfortable and tells Greta that there is ‘people’ talk and ‘pub’ talk and that the truth is somewhere in between.
The people version is that Brahms was a very nice lad. The pub version is that Brahms was very, very off. Malcolm tells Greta about how one time he came over, it was actually Brahms’s birthday. Mrs. Heelshire was opening presents with the Brahms doll while Mr. Heelshire was in the study, drinking heavily. Malcolm was heading to leave when Mr. Heelshire begs company with Malcolm. Mr. Heelshire was muttering about how he can’t go on like this anymore (the doll thing). Malcolm took the opportunity to ask what Brahms, the actual Brahms, was like and Mr. Heelshire just replied with, “odd.”
Malcolm wants her to leave again, but Greta assures him she is ok. He leaves for the night, and she heads to bed. She calls Sandy again and leaves a message for her to send more magazines or anything over as there’s no internet, or TV or barely anything electronic in the manor. She hangs up, and the phone rings again immediately. Thinking it’s Sandy calling back, she picks up instantly but just hears breathing. She hangs up, unnerved.
The next day she goes through the motions and notices the doll in bed where she has left it all that time. The list of things that she’s supposed to do daily with Brahms lays nearby. The phone suddenly rings outside, and when she answers it, she hears the same breathing. This time, there’s a small tinny voice, like a child, calling her name and asking her to play. She starts crying and screaming, asking who this is! She hears footsteps and runs to her room and locks it. From the bottom of the floor, we see the porcelain feet walking across. Greta watches hysterically as she hears Brahms, asking her to come out. She sees something being placed down and after a while goes outside and sees it is a tray with a PB+J sandwich. She picks its up and starts laughing/crying hysterically. She looks across the Brahms’s open room, where the doll now sits on a bed, facing her. She goes to the door and stares at it, and then looks at the list, now knowing what Brahms wants.
The next couple of days, she takes care of Brahms. She talks to him and makes food for him (throwing it as instructed in the container). She plays his music and pretty much follows the list.
We cut to the Heelshires on their trip. Mrs. Heelshire is writing a note to Brahm, apologizing for them leaving him. At the bottom of the letter, it says “the girl is yours now.” They head to a coastline, picking up rocks and putting it in their pockets. They walk, hand-in-hand, drowning themselves.
One day, Malcolm comes over earlier than usual to deliver the food to check up on her. He notices the doll sitting at the table with them. He asks her out again and Greta glances over at the doll, thinking she better not. Malcolm takes it in stride and takes Brahms’s hand and asks to take Greta out, also playing Brahms’s approval in reply. Greta just looks and is not comfortable. She then starts to tell him that Brahms is HERE here. Malcolm doesn’t believe her, and she takes him upstairs.
Apparently, Greta has been experimenting. She places the doll in a sitting position on the ground in Brahms’s room. She takes some chalk and erases her previous lines. She draws a rough outline around the doll. They head back to her room, and Malcolm still thinks it’s crazy. She says she got the idea from when he mentioned how Brahms in real life was extremely shy. So the doll will only move behind closed doors or out of sight. They wait a few beats. Greta knocks on the wall, and they go back to Brahms’s room. The doll is exactly as she left it. Malcolm tells her it’s okay; he believes her.
Greta wants to try one more time. She hugs the doll and tells him that she needs Malcolm to see it, so she’s not alone. She also says that she would have to go if he doesn’t move and that she needs Brahms to do this for her. They go back to her room, and when they head back, the doll is gone. Malcolm is shocked.
Greta is ecstatic that someone else is experiencing this and that she’s not crazy. She hugs him elatedly, and they almost have a moment when she spots Brahms creepily staring at them from behind the door. She picks Brahms up and praises him for a job well down.
Greta and Malcolm walk outside the grounds and have a talk. They figure it must be a spirit in the doll. Malcolm is still a bit creeped, but Greta mentions that she understands the Heelshires more. She explains her past and her long relationship with Cole, who was sometimes abusive. She became pregnant but lost her baby when Cole got violent with her. So she can relate to the Heelshires because she lost a baby too. Malcolm comforts her, and they kiss. They go back inside to her room. Someone is watching from the keyhole. They start to undress when they hear the loud opera music, interrupting them.
They go downstairs and find the doll in the study. Greta figures he is not happy and puts him back to bed. Malcolm is unnerved. He talks to Greta about something 20 years ago that he held back because he didn’t want to scare her. There was a girl that would play with Brahms every week. On the day of his death, the girl went missing while they were playing. Afterward, the house burned up, and Brahms died. They later found the girl’s body in the woods, her skull completely crushed in. Malcolm isn’t completely sure if the doll is holding a good guy ghost spirit. Greta knows Brahms wouldn’t hurt her. She asks Malcolm go home for now (remember the No Guest rule?). While Greta puts Brahms to bed, she whispers, “You wouldn’t hurt me, would you Brahms?”
The next morning, Greta is making breakfast when she hears the billiard balls clacking from the study. She picks up Brahms and heads over, thinking its Malcolm. It’s Cole! Greta tells him he shouldn’t be here. He chides that he just wants to say hi to the kid. Greta clutches Brahms to her protectively, and Cole realizes it’s a doll and laughs. Greta admits that they pay her to take care of a doll. She makes dinner and seats Brahms with them. Cole talks about how he found her a job back home. He keeps trailing off by the doll’s stare on him.
Malcolm comes by, and he and Cole have a mini-standoff. Malcolm peels her away by asking her to look at the groceries. They talk about Cole cannot stay here, and he will hurt her. Greta denies either would happen and tells him she will take care of it.
Malcolm gives a curt goodbye to Cole and leaves. He doesn’t leave, but parks outside a ways and keeps watch.
Greta brings blankets and pillows for him which Cole takes to mean he won’t be sleeping in her bed. Before she leaves, Cole holds her painfully and tells her he’s not letting her go again. He expects her packed by the morning and that they are leaving. Greta tears up and leaves.
Greta puts Brahms to bed, hugging him. She whispers tearfully that she needs his help and falls asleep.
Cole wakes in the middle of the night to blood dripping on his head. He wakes up and yells for Greta. She comes downstairs and see a bunch of the rat carcasses from the trap and a bloody message above that says ‘Get Out.'
Cole thinks it’s Greta, and she vehemently denies it. They spot the doll in the corner, and she runs to him, saying “Brahms! What did you do.”
Cole is pissed and grabs the doll. Greta backtracks and says it was her that did it but Cole sorta believe the doll had something to do with it because he’s been creeped out by it from the start. Malcolm hears the commotion and runs in and sees Cole waving the doll around. Greta is frantic, and they both try to grab the doll away. Cole eventually smashes the doll into the ground. It shatters into a hundred pieces. Immediately the walls start shaking. All three are freaked, and Malcolm wants to leave, but Cole shushes them and puts his ear against a mirror on the wall, following the noise as it quiets.
Suddenly, the mirror shatters and something bursts from the walls. It’s a huge figure, with a porcelain mask over his face. He immediately goes for knocked down Cole. Malcolm and Greta try to stop it, but the figure knocks them both aside and stabs Cole in the neck with a shard from the broken doll. Greta tries to get Malcolm back up, and the figure starts to go after them.
They head to the front door but is blocked off by the figure. He is finding quicker routes to their escapes. They run upstairs and hide in her room, locking the door. The figure opens at the doorknob. Greta finds a panel in the wall, and they both go through. There’s a pathway in the walls. Greta finds some stairs that lead up. It opens into some small room aside the attic. It is OLD and has a fridge and very rough living accommodations. There’s a patchwork lifesize figure on the bed. It’s a fabric doll wearing Greta’s missing coral dress with her jewelry. The head has her shorn locks attached it.
We now realize the truth. Brahms never died. He’s psychotic (probably since even before murdering the girl) and has been living in the walls for 20 years, and Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire has been enabling everything to keep their son. They interact with him through the doll.
Greta finds the letter written by Mrs. Heelshire and realizes that they were leaving her to take care of him forever. She is hysterical, realizing the adult Brahms was watching her every movement while Malcolm keeps trying to find another path out. He finds it and has Greta go through first while Brahms bursts through. There’s a part where they have crawled through, but there’s a hatch that leads outside! Brahms follows through, holding a bigger shard in his hand and Malcolm tells Greta to move on. Greta doesn’t want to leave him, but he runs at Brahms to hold him off. Brahms is huge and overpowers Malcolm. He smashes his fist in Malcolm’s head, and Malcolm is knocked out. Brahms heads towards Greta, telling her in a small child voice for her to stay. She finally gets it opens leaps through. Brahms can’t catch up due to the part where he has to crawl and screams after her that if she doesn’t stay he will finish off Malcolm and kill him like he did everyone else!
Greta runs and makes it towards the gates before she stops and turns back. She is facing her abuser, and she wants to save Malcolm. She heads to the door and pockets a long letter opener she finds. She goes towards Cole’s dead body where Brahms is standing. The mask completely covers his face except his eyes and large tufts of facial hair is visible around it. Greta told him she came back, and she would never leave, keeping her promise. Brahms reaches for her and Greta stops him still when she uses her nanny voice, telling Brahms it’s time for bed. It triggers something in him, and he follows obediently. She puts him in bed, and he whispers, “Kiss” but she retreats, saying no kiss for his punishment. She pulls and he grabs her and says “kiss” again, a bit more forcibly. She haltingly presses her lips to the porcelain mask and Brahms starts to pull her closer. She takes the letter opener and stabs Brahms in the stomach. He recoils and throws her off him on the wall. He immediately starts to strangle her and Greta almost passes out, but she manages to grip the letter opener and push it in more. Brahms collapses, and Greta runs past him to the hidden pathways to see if Malcolm is ok. Part of Brahms mask is shattered, and we see the burned skin underneath.
Malcolm is alive and wakes with some large contusions on his face. She gets him out of there, and they drive off from Heelshire manor forever.
The next shot cuts to someone painstakingly piecing the doll back together. Brahms, alive, presumably.
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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Greta is a nanny for the Heelshires and their son, Brahms. She finds out it’s a doll that the Heelshire treats like a real boy after their son died in a fire 20 years ago. They kill themselves together after Brahms choose Greta, releasing them from the life they had to live for 20 years.
The truth is that Brahms survived the fire 20 years ago and has been living in a secret room and using the walls to get around. He never reveals himself due to the fact he was horribly disfigured from the fire. He is still childlike and interacts through the doll. He is unleashed after Greta’s ex breaks the doll and runs rampant before Greta kills him and escapes.
Though at the end it shows he still may be alive.
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