What Lead Us To Sinister 2
When I first saw the trailer for Sinister I didn’t pay it much mind. At the time Blumhouse’s success spawned from the first three Paranormal Activity films (personally they aren’t my cup of tea as horror goes) and the first Insidious film. Scott Derrickson had proved himself as a competent horror director with the underrated films Hellraiser: Inferno and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. But he had hit a speed bump with the forgettable remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. And even Ethan Hawke had kind of had a minor slump in his career.
In spite of all this I watched Sinister expecting the worst and came out pleasantly surprised. Between an intriguing story, creepy visuals, and an unnerving score Sinister became one of my favorite horror films of the 2010’s. Taking in nearly $88 million against a $3 million budget it was inevitable that we’d see a sequel. On August 21, 2015 Sinister 2 was released and… oh boy. So after a recent rewatch I wanted to dig in and assess what worked and what did not. So without further ado, let’s dig in.
One of the major problems of spawning a franchise retroactively is picking up where the first film left off. And with protagonist Ellison Oswalt and his family dead where do you go? Enter James Ransone reprising his role as (Ex) Deputy So and So. While not exactly compelling in the first film he was an interesting peripheral character. This to me is the biggest strength of the of Sinister 2.
Aside from not needing to waste a large amount of time setting up a new character Ransone is a pretty great actor who has spent the majority of his career relegated to supporting roles. Getting to flesh out this character (in spite of still not getting a real name) as the man who bared witness to Bughuul’s previous activity is now hell-bent on stopping the evil deity once and for all is a plus. As for the rest of a cast it’s a mixed bag.
What Doesn’t Work
Shannyn Sossamon is an actress who can give a good performance with the right material. Playing a mother on the run she does get some fine moments, but not enough to add up to anything compelling. The two main kids in the story are also rather flat. As for the rest of the kids we’ll get to them in a bit. But the worst part of the film is Lea Coco as the abusive husband/father Clint. As a secondary antagonist he’s clichéd and has about as much depth as a mud puddle.
The story does try to add to the lore of the series, but that does bring up some problems. The A plot of So and So picking up Oswalt’s research and making it his mission to stop Bughuul once and for all gives a great motivation for him. On the other side, the B plot tries to offer a new look at the series, but in doing so demystifies Bughuul. Seeing the ghosts of Bughuul’s previous victims trying to manipulate the children was a huge mistake. The children aren’t terrifying and their acting isn’t all that great. I’m not sure if the director’s intent was to evoke a Children of the Corn vibe, but it didn’t work for me.
Why the Film Fails
But the biggest misstep this film took was the change in director. Derrickson did return to produce and co-write the script once again with C. Robert Cargill, but his primary focus at the time was getting Dr. Strange into production. Ciaran Foy took over the reins and unfortunately didn’t have the same finesse as Derrickson.
What made the first film scary was hinting at the murders rather than outright showing the outcome of the ‘home movies’. Point: In the first film we see Ellison watching a murder by lawnmower. Before we see the mower hit the head of the victim it cuts back to Oswalt. His reaction, the score, and the close-up on the projector convey all we need to know leaving the rest up to our imagination. Conversely, Sinister 2 shows us all the details in one of the child’s films.
Seeing the child putting the rats on the victim’s stomach, covering said rat with a metal bowl, and setting hot coals on the metal bowl should have been enough to let us understand what the outcome was going to be. But Foy felt it necessary to show the rat digging out of the side of a victim. What could’ve been an effective eerie moment was destroyed by hitting the audience over the head.
Final Thoughts on Sinister 2
In the end Sinister 2 in spite of having some great parts suffered from poor execution. What could’ve been an intriguing follow-up turned into a half-hearted cash grab. I’d love to see Bughuul and So and So return at some point, but there would have to be an engaging story and director with a visual flare to bring a fresh take to the material.
Overall Score 2/5