Out on DVD 12 Jan (US) 20 Jan (Australia) (and already available in the UK) - @lcfremont reviews...
Director: Ciarán Foy
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Starring: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco, Lucas Jade Zumann, Nicholas King
It’s no secret that I have a mildly obsessive love for Sinister. If I happen to be cruising through channels and it’s on, I will watch, regardless of how far into the movie it is. My love for this movie even caused me to make my very own Bennington College shirt so I could wear it under a chunky cardigan just like Ellison Oswalt. I come clean with all of this information because it’s important to note that, despite my adoration of Scott Derrickson’s little gem of a film, I knew not to have the same expectations of Sinister 2 simply because Derrickson was no longer the man behind the camera. While still written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, both of whom wrote the first film, this installment is directed by Ciaran Foy. Foy’s film, Citadel, is a gritty, dark and suspenseful treat that deserves a bigger audience. In fact, Foy seemed to be the very best person to take over for Derrickson while he works on a tiny, modestly budgeted film that rhymes with doktor mange. Unfortunately, something was lost in the translation and this Sinister lacks all of the depth of feeling that made the first one so creepy and wonderful.
The family in peril in this installment is a single mom, Courtney, played by Shannyn Sossman, who is trying to escape her abusive husband, Clint. Courtney and Clint have twin boys; Dylan and Zach. Courtney has taken the two boys to live in an isolated house next to an abandoned church where a really awful murder occurred because nothing bad could ever come from these circumstances.
Since Deputy So & So is the only character to survive the first film, he is now the anchor of this film and while he’s still that perfect mix of curiosity, diligence and good intentions, he just doesn’t fill the shoes of Ellison.
Ethan Hawke played Ellison with a selfish intensity that pulled you into the madness with him. James Ransone gives us a Deputy So & So who has seen the evil of Bughuul and he treads a bit too lightly. His need to walk on eggshells around the story also keeps us on the periphery and that just doesn’t do the story justice because part of what makes Sinister so damn creepy is the way that it absorbs you into it. By watching those snuff films with Ellison, you become complicit in the events that unfold. The snuff films in Sinister 2 feel more like a macabre accessory; each child presents their film reel as though it’s a trophy. These kids seem to take quite a bit of glee in their homicidal ways and, unfortunately, that actually detracts from the overall feeling. Rather than being uncertain about how you should feel towards them, you just kind of dislike them because they’re creepy, little kids who are trying to entice Dylan into joining their decidedly immoral club.
In fact, the children are much more the focus than Bughuul. Bughuul is just a really tall guy with weird hands, good fashion sense and stringy hair who pops up whenever the time feels right for a jump scare. At the head of the gang of ghosts is Milo, a dapper young man who really, really wants Dylan to kill his family. Not Zach. They want Dylan. Why? I don’t know. Allegedly, it’s because Dylan is smarter than Zach, but Zach is the one who actually wants to kill his family and be a part of the Bughuul Brigade, so why not just take him? It felt as though some sort of commentary on abuse and it’s consequences was trying to be explored with this, but it was never really followed through. Perhaps the abuse story was necessary to make it not seem weird that a woman would take her two young children to live in a house where a horrific crime occurred. As you know, the Bughuul mythology only works when a family moves out of a house where a child who previously lived there murdered their family. So, let’s talk about those snuff films…..
i. You already saw all of them in the advertising which makes them not very effective.
ii. The improbability of kids pulling these stunts off is pretty high. A grown man can barely dig his own grave, so I’m not sure how a child would have the physical ability to dig multiple shallow graves in frozen ground.
iii. Only one of these films within the film is truly eerie.
I’m sorry kids, but there is no lawnmower type scene in this movie. The scariest and most shocking thing about Sinister 2 is the fact that all of the pieces are there, but they seem to have been glued together out of obligation and not love. We have a lot of strong components in the story:
-The Bughuul mythology is undeniably interesting and creepy.
-The notion that he can convince children to kill their families and film the entire thing is chilling.
-A man who feels a righteous obligation to burn down all of the houses where Bughuul has struck is exceedingly easy to sympathize with and root for.
-A woman who is strong, capable and not afraid to back down when faced with a dickhead of a husband is a rare commodity in movies and Sossamon did a great job with what she was given.
-Even the super rad score from the first film is thrown at us, albeit, in moments of what feel like panic on the part of the director.
It really is a shame that all of this couldn’t come together and it is with a heavy heart that I find Sinister 2 to be just fine. That’s it. It’ll do. You probably won’t hate it, but you’re probably not going to love it, either.