By: Trevor Jeffery
Ciarán Foy’s Sinister 2 startles to the point of frustration, but frightens beyond its use of clichés.
In the cellar of his runaway family’s newly squatted home, Dylan joins a pack of ghost kids to watch the snuff films they made, in order to stop his nightmares. It seems counterintuitive, but the snappily dressed leader of the pack insists it helps. Dylan Collins, his brother Zach and his mother Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) are shacking up in a family friend’s empty home, which happens to be next to a church where a family was grotesquely murdered (think rat, bucket, and 2 Fast 2 Furious). A friendly-faced former deputy (James Ransone, reprising his role from Sinister) shows up with gallons of gasoline and a burning desire to cleanse the property of Bughuul (AKA the boogey man), his nemesis from the previous film and ringleader to the ghastly little Eli Roths – like a ghoulish Fagin of murdering people on tape. But to burn the place to the ground would be moot, as the Collins already live there, and thusly are already doomed.
The first five minutes predict a heavy reliance on jump scares, and by halfway through, the film has met the standard and then some. These moments of suspense become tedious and stressful, in a “just get it over with” way. The film’s main antagonist Bughuul – looking like if Michael Jackson had tried out for Slipknot – shows up far too often and overstays his welcome, removing any mystique he may still have. And while the long overplayed “creepy child” trope fails to frighten, it’s an effectively utilized context for the real fright of the movie: the snuff films. Where the creepy child trope fails in practice, the snuff films reinvigorate it in theory – knowing what’s behind the camera and being unable to see it adds a dimension of insecurity that the rest of the film’s “show everything” mission statement failed to capture. Each with its own beautiful-yet-unsettling soundtrack, the snuff films focus on tone rather than gore. They’re violent, but artfully dodge the blatant blood and gross-out shots that would earn Sinister 2 the “gore porn” label.
Interwoven amongst the paranormal horror plot is an everyday horror plot: Courtney in on the lam, protecting her boys from their abusive father, and her husband, Clint. While Clint serves to up the body count, the plot plays strong sympathetically, using Courtney as a tether to reality and – unlike many films of the genre – an actual emotional stake, holding interest during the tropey parts of the film.
Through statistical average, the cast overall is passable: bringing down the mean is a slew of child actors, who at every opportunity remind you that you are watching actors portray characters. Removed from this group is Robert Daniel Sloan who plays Dylan, and is able to hold his own amongst the adults of the cast. James Ransone has the charisma to be a great on-screen lead, but still seems to be a couple of acting classes away from his full potential, and Shannyn Sossamon really, really makes you care about her.
Sinister 2 has its flaws – the same flaws that typically haunt a horror sequel – but gives out enough of a scare to earn its keep.
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