Directed by: Ciaran Foy
Premise: A sequel to the 2012 film. A single mother and her sons move into a farmhouse and evil forces attempt to corrupt the boys.
What Works: The original Sinister was one of the better titles in the current trend of haunted house movies. The sequel recaptures much of what made the first film successful. The picture is about a family haunted by the demon Bughuul who coerces children into killing their families and then absorbs the murderous child into his brood of ghosts that carry on to the next set of victims. Smartly realizing that the surprise of the first film cannot be replicated, the filmmakers of Sinister 2 utilize the audience’s knowledge to create tension. Since we already know Bughuul’s endgame, the film’s fear is mostly found in the seduction of the boys. The filmmakers manage to create an effective atmosphere of dread. The film has several sequences involving supernatural phenomena in dingy hallways and abandoned buildings and these sequences are sufficiently creepy. Sinister 2 is primarily a haunted house picture and every haunted house movie has the same problem: finding a credible reason to keep the people in the house. In this film a mother and her boys take shelter from the family’s abusive father and must stay on the property in order to avoid being forced back into a violent home. That works for the movie and the background of domestic violence provides a credible setup for the corruption of the sons. One of the only returning players in Sinister 2 is James Ransone as an investigator trying to uncover the truth about Bughuul and stop the demon before anyone else is killed. Ransone was fun to watch in the first film and the actor adds a lot of humanity to the sequel.
What Doesn’t: Sinister 2 tends to exacerbate the problems of the previous movie. Like a lot of contemporary horror films, Sinister 2 overuses the jump scare. Every few minutes the filmmakers clobber the audience with a loud sound effect in order to force a scare instead of carefully building up to a shocking moment. The story is built around the idea that children are corrupted by the evil spirt Bughuul and then kill their entire family in murderous episodes that are captured on Super 8 film. In every case, the murders are elaborately staged and it’s unbelievable that these kids would be able to subdue their parents and older siblings and then pull off the grotesque set pieces. The first film had some mystery to that premise and left open the possibility that the young killers had supernatural help. But this film makes it clear that the child is doing all this himself and that results in absurd sequences in which adults run scared from a ten year old boy. The character of Bughuul remains on the periphery. While the filmmakers avoid overexposing their villain and destroying his mystery, Bughuul is a weak presence throughout the movie and he isn’t very threatening or all that interesting. The first Sinister benefitted from a detective story in which a crime writer uncovered the mystery behind a series of murders. The sequel attempts to duplicate some of that but does so halfheartedly. The corruption of the boys in Sinister 2 isn’t as interesting as the detective story of the first film. It also creates a problem for the drama. This is a movie in which a boy is tempted to murder his own family. As a result the film ends with a sequence in which the mother, played by Shannyn Sossamon, is confronted by her own son attempting familicide. Sossamon does not behave in a way that’s credible and the movie skips over the horror of watching a member of one’s own family—and a child no less—become a murderer. That dimension of horror is overlooked by this movie and that is indicative of the way the filmmakers of Sinister 2 have let down their predecessor.
Bottom Line: Sinister 2 is an acceptable sequel. It isn’t as good as the first movie but it does manage a few scares and has some unsettling imagery. The core idea of the Sinister movies is very strong but the moviemakers haven’t yet fulfilled its potential.
Episode: #559 (September 13, 2015)