IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 97 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Nine year old Dylan begins to have nightmares in which he’s visited by a group of ghostly children who bring him into the basement and force him to watch Super 8 footage of families being savagely murdered. His life during the day is little better, his twin brother Zach often bullying him and both brothers and their mother Courtney being on the run from their violent father Clint. They are currently living in secret in a farmhouse. However, former deputy So And So, who investigated the Ellison Oswalt case where the daughter slew the rest of her family, is independently researching the series of murders connected to the demon Bughuul, and is burning down the homes connected to each of the crimes before another family can move into them. He arrives at the farmhouse to destroy it, but finds Courtney and her sons living there….
2012’s Sinister, which was inspired by a nightmare that director and co-writer Scott Derrickson had after watching The Ring, wasn’t perfect. It was about 20 minutes too long, somewhat confused in its plotting [which can, of course, work in a horror film but didn’t seem to suit this one], and only sometimes managed to actually frighten [well, me anyway]. Its first half seemed to suggest some interesting pathways which the second hald chose not to go down. However, it was often unsettling, had atmosphere to spare, introduced a great new bogeyman in Bughuul – an intriguing twist on the Boogeyman who’s omnipresent yet absent at the same time, had a performance from Ethan Hawke in the lead role which was one of the best in a horror film for some time, and….well, I’ve read comments from some that the climax was predictable but I remember being genuinely shocked – but in a good way [I’m assuming that everyone reading this has actually seen Sinister] – when it became apparent that young Ashley was actually going to gruesomely murderi her family! It didn’t really need a sequel of course, but the film’s strong box office performance ensured that one was going to be made anyway, Derrickson relinquishing the director’s chair to Cairan Foy [the interesting though not-quite-there Citadel], though he remains co-writer]. A quick glance at the IMDB reveals that the majority of ‘external’ critics don’t think much of the movie, while the user reviews are much more positive. I’ll admit, I expected a mediocre effort that relies solely on constant jump scares for effect, but actually Sinister 2 is pretty decent, and [whisper it quietly] in some ways an improvement on the first film. It falls down badly on several points, but most horror fans needing a quick fix should find enough to keep them going.
It certainly begins well, with a family being hung up like scarecrows in a corn field and burned alive, a scene which also suggests that this movie is not only a sequel to Sinister but also appears to take place in a world not far from that in Children Of The Corn. Of course the incident is revealed to be a nightmare that young Dylan Collins has. He awakes, and looks into his cupboard where some clothes are hanging. The moment is quite scary, with a real feel of fear of the unknown, as the clothes begin to slightly move and Bughuul’s face looms out of the dark. For once in a modern horror film, the moment is lingered upon, though we do then get a jump scare – with of course the obligatory musical sting – of a ghost child appearing beside his bed, and it sure works! The following day, while shopping with his twin brother, Zach, and their mother, Courtney, Courtney notices a man spying on her, and they flee the market, returning to the rural farmhouse where they are staying. It seems that this particular family is in danger both during the day and during the night, and from both supernatural apparitions and more ‘real’ peril in the form of both Zach’s hostility to his brother, and Courtney’s ex-husband Clint who seems to have the local police in the palm of his hand. The sense of constant danger makes the film constantly quite intense even if it just never gets quite as scary as you want it to.
Now I didn’t think that James Ransome’s Deputy So And So [it was stupid before and it’s stupid now] quite fit in to the first movie. Though endearing, his slightly bumbling character seemed like he was in a different film and could have quite easily been written out of Sinister. However, he’s most welcome in this one and his vulnerability makes you feel he’s in constant danger. Bughuul appears briefly in a few early scenes, and as usual they become less effective with repetition, but it’s the spectral kids that soon become more prominent. The scenes where Dylan is shown the snuff films of families being killed have a cruel edge to them because it’s a young kid who is watching the stuff. However, the decision to have the murders become far more elaborate in this film backfires a bit. While there’s a devilish imagination at work here – one sequence involving people nailed to a church, rats, communion goblets and hot coals being the most disturbing death scene I’ve seen in a film for some time – one feels like one is watching a Found Footage version of a Saw film, and in the end it was more upsetting watching the deaths in the first film because they were more believable and easier to carry out even if less graphic.
Sinister 2 slows down a couple of times to give us your typical couple who seem on the verge of getting together, though generally it’s a faster paced affair than Sinister. Unfortunately, having the children appear in a lot of scenes is the other big mistake the film makes. They lose their creepiness both by being so prevalent and by the decision to make them talk. While real life twins Dartanian Sloan and Robert Daniel Sloan are fine as the two brothers, the child performers essaying the roles of the ghosts don’t seem to have been given much direction and they sometimes end up causing chuckles rather than shudders. Meanwhile poor Bughuul is sometimes forgotten about, though you do get a couple of scenes which expand on the character on the background, one of them containing what was the film’s biggest chill for me, a recording of an eerie radio broadcast, though the basic story follows a similar structure to the first and even has a similar climax. Some may say that it cops out slightly, but I liked the fact that it was reminiscent of the end of the first movie yet changed a few things. Of course certain details still end up making little sense but because this is a somewhat livelier movie you’re given less time to think about them, at least until after it’s finished!
The most disturbing scenes may very well be those involving Clint, who is a really horrid, yet believable, character and a role which Lea Coco really goes, perhaps surprisingly, to town on. A man who beat up both his wife and one of his sons, Clint ends up being scarier than Bughuul. Because there is a real sense of human fear here, this aspect ends up slightly unbalancing the film while others may see the use of it distasteful and nasty, but the picture is totally upfront right from the beginning that it’s a nastier piece of work than its predecessor and seems to suggest that real evil could lie within us rather than supernatural entities. Elsewhere, Sinister 2, which contains yet another scene where kids are staying up watching a horror film [Night Of The Living Dead, which has itself been used before in scenes like this] but are put to bed by their parent[s] before the film has finished, also appears to be warning of the dangers of young kids watching horror films, at least sadistic ones of the Saw variety. There are some interesting ideas in the screenplay, though it’s still a bit of a mess truth be told. It sometimes seems to throw up things and then gloss over them, like when we’re told about an uncertain fate of one character from the previous film and nothing ever comes of it. One feels as if the definitive movie from this premise has still to be made.
Foy’s direction is rather pedestrian though the Found Footage bits are handled with relish and indicate that he’d be very suited to a film in that genre. Musical duo Tomandandy replace Christopher Young on scoring but retain some of his motifs and provide an equally effective soundtrack with things like out of tune piano and distorted bass instruments adding to a sense of unease, while elsewhere there’s a lot of weird, exaggerated sound effects that also work very well. Sometimes Sinister 2 really falters and makes mistakes, but overall it’s nothing to be ashamed of and really is better than you may have been led to believe. Yeah, it’s a cash grab, but containing some good and interesting stuff in it. And it’s genuinely quite nasty. I’ll leave you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not.