Director: Ciaran Foy
Cast: Shannyn Sossamon, James Ransone, Robert Sloan, Dartanian Sloan
Release Date: August 21st, 2015
Directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson, this the original Sinister built scares around a familiar premise. In it, Ethan Hawke played a mystery novelist named Ellison who moved his naïve family into a home that previously housed a terrible murder. The concept wasn’t original but the chills were real as Derrickson’s direction and the creepy ambiance he built led to an unsettling feeling for the unsuspecting viewer.
Lacking Derrickson’s direction and a clear vision, the sequel Sinister 2 features a few of the same tricks but by now, these tricks no longer offer the real scares that they once did.
The main returning player here is deputy (James Ransone), who served as a source for Ellison in the original. The character wasn’t that memorable in the first installment but seems to be less so here. He’s on a quest to stop Bughuul (Nicholas King), the murdering spirit who turns children against their parents. While trying to destroy the homes that Bughuul might inhabit, the deputy comes across Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon), a single mother of two whose husband is trying to get custody of their children.
From there, the feature loses its identity setting up major conflicts that have little to do with the evil spirit causing trouble behind the scenes. There’s a custody battle between Courtney and her estranged and abusive husband Clint (Lea Coco), which plays out as dramatically as it would in any Lifetime movie. Then, there’s the conflict between Dylan and Zach Collins (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan), Courtney’s two children who are currently being visited by spirits of young murderers under Bughuul’s control. The spirits are showing the brothers the videos of their previous murders– which play out with the same eerie power as the ones glimpsed in the original– and tempting the boys to follow the same pattern.
Both conflicts are side plots here and only reveal the weakness of the main story-line, which features the deputy as the protagonist. The deputy isn’t as interesting a figure as Ellison was and the main relationship here— the one the deputy shares with Courtney (yes, there’s romance here)— pales in comparison to the tense relationship that Ellison shared with his wife.
To their credit, Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill are at least willing to try a few new tricks here (unlike The Hangover 2, which simply repeated the original’s successful formula). Here we get to see the children’s perspective on Bughuul. We still don’t get to see why the evil spirit has such a pull on the young ones but we get to see how the children are haunted by the young murderers of the past. Unfortunately though, the behind-the-scenes manipulations aren’t as interesting as one would think.
The script makes it seem like the writers are revealing the secrets behind a trick but when we see what’s behind the curtain, we realize that there’s not that much excitement to be had watching children tempt other children into devious deeds.
There hare a few scenes when Bughuul sneaks in for a few scenes but those scenes are few and far between. This film’s focus loses sight of the evil at its core and plays out like a low-rate sequel. Even Vincent D’Onofrio, who played Professor Jonas in the original here, is replaced by a lesser-actor who seemingly serves the same purpose here.
The original had its flaws but still managed a unique spin on the story of an evil spirit. This sequel, with the silly custody battle at its center, plays out like a lesser, more horrific version of Kramer versus Kramer where the biggest loser is the audience.
Review by: John Hanlon