This has been a summer of scares for your resident L-7 weenie. Sinister 2 is the fifth horror movie I’ve reviewed over the past few months. As such, it’s only natural that I compare it to this summer’s previous offerings. Going in, I asked myself:
Would Sinister 2 be as pleasant a surprise as Unfriended?
Would it be less horrendously boring than Insidious: Chapter 3?
Would it have less headache-inducing shakycam than The Gallows? Please, God, less shakycam.
And, most importantly: Would it have more or less of Sam Rockwell mock fighting a squirrel than the Poltergeist remake?
No. Yes. Yes. And, sadly, less, by virtue of Sam Rockwell not being in Sinister 2. You could have photoshopped him in the background mock fighting a squirrel, director Ciarán Foy, if you’d really wanted to. What gives? You think you’re better than the rest of us?
Sinister 2 is scarier than Insidious: Chapter 3 and less obnoxious than The Gallows, which starts it off on the good foot. Its basic premise, as laid out in the first movie, is scary as fuck. The main baddie is the Boogeyman of old, actually a demon named Bughuul, who sets up shop in a house and, when a family moves in, possesses one of its children, eventually forcing the kid to kill their entire family and join his creepy undead child army. (See, this is why you shouldn’t procreate.) The cool twist is that Bughuul doesn’t spring his trap and make the kid go full psycho until after the family’s moved out of the house—doing the smart thing and fucking moving when you find out your house is haunted is actually what gets you killed. Bughuul then hangs out in the new house until another family moves in, and the whole cycle begins anew.
Actor James Ransome’s unnamed Deputy from the first film (credited as “Deputy So & So” in Sinister and “Ex-Deputy So & So” here) steps into the leading role this time around, with Ethan Hawke’s true crime writer from the first film being otherwise occupied with the messy business of decomposing. The haunted family is Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twin boys Dylan and Zach (Robert Daniel and Dartanian Sloan). And occupying the director’s chair, now that Scott Derrickson’s fucked off to Doctor Strange, is Ciarán Foy. Foy already has one solid horror movie under his belt with the wonderfully understated Citadel (2012), about an agoraphobic single father who must protect his infant daughter from creepy, hoodie-wearing youths roaming around his near-abandoned apartment complex. (The film was inspired by Foy’s own experience of being attacked and threatened with a hypodermic needle by a gang of kids when he was 18, which left him suffering from agoraphobia.)
Foy has a deft hand for horror. He takes advantage of the creep factor that twins inherently provide (sorry, Dustin) and does a good job of building a general sense of dread instead of relying on constant jump scares. Further, Ex-Deputy So & So makes for a refreshing horror leading man. Instead of Vaguely Broody Father #175, the ex-Deputy is, essentially, a dippy little cupcake/adorable golden retriever in human form. It’s fun to see him react to things like feral rats and possessed HAM radios and Jocelyn from A Knight’s Tale making with the googly eyes.
That said, Foy was at a severe disadvantage here, because the first Sinister already unraveled the high-wattage twists (that the kids are the ones doing the murdering, and that they do it once their families have scrammed to supposed safety). There’s an attempt to misdirect viewers in Sinister 2, but you can see the twist from a mile away. The story’s just weak, especially the ending, which is a cop-out of the highest order that actually made people in my screening bust out laughing. You can tell the writers, Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill (who also wrote the first movie) didn’t really know where to take the story, so they just phoned it in instead of trying to come up with something truly interesting. Which isn’t the worst thing you can do; no one expects low-budget horror sequels to be the height of innovation. But it’s still a shame, because it left a talented director without much to work with.