Sinister 2 (2015) / Horror
MPAA Rated: Rated R for strong violence, bloody and disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco, Tate Ellington, Nicholas King
Director: Ciaran Foy
Screenplay: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Review published August 22, 2015
2012's Sinister was an effective chiller for the first two thirds of its run time before settling in to rather conventional horror flick clichés for its climax. The build-up was so gripping, I do give the film a recommendation for getting your scare level up for a prolonged period in which you genuinely care about what happens next. The same won't be said about that surprise hit's obligatory follow-up, Sinister 2, which doesn't really bother with building up suspenseful moments, content to dole out gratuitous jump scares at pre-determined intervals, and filling what's in between with a storyline that hardly makes sense and characters that perpetually grate.
Both films have the evil-looking demon Bughuul, who enjoys taking racking up souls of innocents to his collection. Sinister managed to keep his visage sparsely seen in the first film, we were genuinely anxious about him because we never got a good enough glimpse to size him up. Sinister 2 hits you up early and often with him front and center, just another creepy looking dude who looks like he should be on stage at a Nu-Metal concert. Both movies also introduce a bunch of 16mm demonic snuff family films that Bughuul seems fond of making, but the way its introduced here is nonsensical and forced -- one of the kids is told that by one of the spirits of the kids Bughuul has taken that he will not suffer nightmares on an evening in which he watches one of these highly disturbing films that features grisly depictions of families meeting cruel ends (alligator attacks, being iced under, roasted with electricity, etc.), and will no longer have them again once he gets through them all.
Returning from the first film as a character is the nervous deputy (Ransone, Oldboy), now working as a private investigator by day, while doing his own side investigating into the Bughuul phenomenon in his spare time, hoping to extinguish spots where evil has taken place by burning them down before it comes back. His hunt takes him to an Illinois countryside where a mother named Courtney (Sossamon, The Holiday) and her young twin sons Dylan and Zach are unknowingly residing in a farmhouse next to an abandoned church where demonic ritualistic murders occurred while she hides out from her abusive ex-husband, who wants his kids back. Naturally, or supernaturally, the ghosts of Bughuul's victims communicate daily with the sensitive Dylan, giving fair warning through a collection of reel-to-reel home movies and (now) vinyl records kept in a trunk that about the consequences of the return of the malevolent spirit -- or, perhaps, facilitating it by seducing the lad to commit the sadistic acts depicted himself. Even old Ham radios become conduits for dastardly evil spirits -- remember kids: analog is evil!
Sinister 2 doesn't have Scott Derrickson, director of Sinister, at the helm, but it does retain the same screenwriters in Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. I suppose as an example of the difference a director can make in terms of providing palpable tension in a film, Derrickson managed to have it for a good spell, while Sinister 2's Ciaran Foy (Citadel, Scumbot) never generates a genuine moment of suspense, even by accident. As such, other than whatever good will you come in with if you enjoyed the first entry in the series, Sinister 2 is flavorless and ineffectual, doling out easy-to-predict jump-scares in place of genuine fright, introducing nothing new that generates any interest in seeing this story continue in future entries, unless you enjoy counting up the ways a screenplay can steal from the works of Stephen King, especially "Children of the Corn".
The film eventually descends into touchy subject matter not befitting a cheap scare flick, including spousal abuse and child abuse, treating it more as a character gimmick to lend sympathy to the plight of the main family, yet doesn't have much to offer on the matter otherwise. You never feel scared, but you do feel bad, and bummed out, which probably hadn't been the intent of the filmmakers. The only moment of genuine joy you'll feel watching this inherently silly and thoroughly repellent film is that moment when you walk out of the theater, knowing that the day can only get better from there.
©2015 Vince Leo