If I ever write a movie, Dear Reader, it’s going to be a horror film – if for no other reason than it looks so goddamn easy. Mind you – I’m not talking about truly original and terrifying scripts, but rather the bland, formulaic ‘terror’ that plagues our local movie theaters nowadays.
I can’t cook for shit, but I’m willing to bet I could make something edible just by following a simple recipe. In the same way, it wouldn’t be rocket science to write a somewhat successful horror story by picking the right ingredients. First you obviously need your antagonist. Sprinkle in some one-dimensional characters and their relatable real-life struggles. Drown the mixture with a bit of bloodshed to your heart’s content. Let bake for an hour and a half, and voilà! You have yourself a second-rate horror film.
What’s not as easy to do is reuse the same ingredients to produce a sequel as is the case with Sinister 2. Don’t get me wrong – it comes damn close to being on par with its predecessor. It’s simply the case that the second installment has signaled the series’ descent into the realm of Schlock.
You just can’t help it – horror sequels aren’t able to deliver the same thrills created by the originals. Umm, Airman Xley…you’re clearly forgetting about Aliens and how… DON’T YOU EVEN FUCKING START, YOU THEATER TROLL! I will go 22nd Century on your ass if you even remotely pit Alien and Aliens against one another. The former is clearly sci-fi/horror and the latter sci-fi/action.
But let’s get back to the topic at hand shall we? Fans of the first Sinister film will undoubtedly enjoy the sequel, but you’ll be hard pressed to name Sinister 2 as the better film unless of course you prefer gore and jump-scares over lasting creepiness. Alright, I lied – it still has that in some scenes.
In case you missed the first film, I’ll give you my 20,000-foot overview (since that’s our current altitude aboard the Drive-in Zeppelin). The story is about a true-crime novelist and his family who move into a house that featured a gruesome murder. The prior tenants were all hung from a tree out back save for one of the daughters. The Writer, played by Ethan Hawke, sets out to solve the little girl’s disappearance (and the murder), but inevitably stumbles on something otherworldly at play.
When he finds some old 8mm videotapes in the attic, he discovers several related instances where an entire family gets murdered, and a lone child still missing. Long story short, some child-eating demon named Bughuul (AKA Mr. Boogie) hypnotizes the missing child into killing their entire family and then feasts on their souls for all eternity.
SPOILER ALERT – At the end of the movie Ethan Hawke and his whole family are beheaded by the daughter, and Mr. Boogie carries her into Netherworld.
Much like the first film (which takes place a few years prior), Sinister 2 opens with another gruesome 8mm video of a family being tied to crosses and burned alive near a cornfield.
Enter the mother – Shannyn Sossamon – and her two twin sons living near a cornfield. She is at her wits end because her abusive, millionaire ex-husband wants custody of the children. In secret, she takes the boys (real life twins Robert and Dartanian Sloan) to a rural farmhouse within a stone’s throw of an abandoned church where one of the sinister mass murders took place.
Rather than rehashing the mystery and allure of the first film (since you already know Mr. Boogie is behind it all), Sinister 2 explores the rules of the universe from the child’s perspective instead of Sossamon’s. She’s too busy perfecting her ‘southern’ accent.
The ghosts of the previous murdering children now haunt the young Dylan and coax him into watching their murder movies. Should he not comply with their wishes, they’re able to project nightmares of the murders into his head while he’s asleep (and they then claim watching the movies will make them go away).
Meanwhile, James Ransone reprises his role as Former-Deputy So & So (honest-to-god his name). After the events of the first film, he has taken it upon himself to further unravel the mystery of Bughuul and hopefully stop future murders from happening by burning down all the marked-for-death houses (more on his reasoning in a minute). He eventually finds his way to the farmhouse due to its gruesome past, but is unable to summarily set the place on fire since Sossamon and Sons are living there. Then – you know – horror shit goes down and that’s the movie.
I found this to be a rather clever twist on the Sinister formula as one of the ‘rules’ created by the first film was that a family would only be murdered once they moved away from the house where the tapes were found. So in a nutshell – a family moves into a home, someone finds and watches the videotapes of the previous murders, the family gets scared and moves away, the kid is possessed and murders the whole family.
So in a sense, the mystery of the first film led audiences to scream “just move out of the fucking house! It’s evil!” Whereas the sequel makes us want Sossamon and her family to stay put, lest they get set on fire near a cornfield.
All in all, Sinister 2 was a relatively decent horror film, though it misses the mark in a lot of respects. The first one was quasi-creepy and had a pretty dark and – god forbid – sinister atmosphere to it. I loved the shallow focus and extremely low lighting Director Scott Derrickson used in the first film, so I was at least optimistic going into the sequel since he and C. Robert Cargill returned as the leading writers.
There are a lot of things that work in this film’s favor, but none of them outranks the inclusion of Shannyn Sossamon. I wish she’d just hurry up and embrace her stardom as a B-level horror actress. I mean – I loved Catacombs! She’s absolutely perfect for capturing that fragile, Horror-to-Heroin character that lives specifically in these types of movies. Granted, she doesn’t do much in Sinister 2 except whine and restore antique furniture, but I certainly didn’t want to see her (or her career) go up in flames.
Fans of the modern jump-scare will definitely prefer the sequel, as that’s about the only thing Director Ciarán Foy could use to try and one-up the thrill of the first film. I refer of course to the not-at-all-scary scenes where the audio is turned down to zero and then cranked back up to ear-splitting volumes as something pops out. Trust me – you’re not jumping because you’re scared (although you might be, I’ve forgotten the feeling). You’re jumping because it’s a physical reaction to a sharp and painful noise.
Then you’ve got ol’ Mr. Boogie who – through a lack of a compelling plot – gets much more screen time than he did in the first film. Whereas he was mainly just a poorly Photoshopped face in the background of videos in Sinister, he’s now basically Mick Thomson – the guitarist for Slipknot – which makes for a much creepier version of the boogeyman. You know – one who can give you a hug and buy you an ice cream cone before carrying you off to eternal damnation.
So Boogie Woogie Wu to you too, you ungrateful child of the corn. That’s what you get for being such an ungrateful little prick to your poor, stressed-out mother. No, you Dear Reader, you stay classy. I’m talking about the little shitheads in this movie that get peer pressured by ghosts ‘n shit.
The Bottom Line:
Meh – they could have done a whole lot worse in this writer’s humble horror opinion. I’m sure they’re saving the bulk of the schlock for Sinister 3 through 7 which will inevitably be much more over-the-top. Whereas the first film had all the mystery and genuine creepiness one would expect from a boogieman movie, Sinister 2 is just formulaic and going through the motions of what was done in 2012.
It’s generic, mildly entertaining and trying way too damn hard to be a spiritual successor to the Saw Movies – what with the ironic and often gruesome means of familial mass-murder and all.
Probably worth a trip to the theaters for “Date Night”, but you’ll get the added benefit of seeing firsthand why you don’t want to have children any time soon. They’ll either kill you literally or figuratively. If only the boogieman would scare these kids into becoming productive members of society, then and only then would we be rid of those awful Paranormal Activity movies…