Mark Reviews Movies

Sinister 2


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ciarán Foy

Cast: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lucas Jade Zumann, Lea Coco, Tate Ellington

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence, bloody and disturbing images, and language)

Running Time: 1:37

Release Date: 8/21/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 21, 2015

As contrived as some of the more clichéd elements of Sinister were (There were enough of them, too), the movie at least knew that one of the key facets of a successfully chilling horror movie is a sense of the dreaded unknown. It also possessed a creepy hook: a series of snuff films that presented increasingly gruesome and demented killings in all their silent, grainy terror, with an occasional flash of the silhouette of an eerie face somewhere in the frame.

The movie kept the origin of these twisted home movies and the goal of the thing with that face at bay until the finale, when, of course, the revelations didn't quite match the build-up. That's always the tricky part: making the motion of the exposed gears as interesting as the actions of the machine.

With Sinister 2, we begin with full knowledge of both the machine and how the gears operating it work. Many a horror sequel simply has played ignorant with the fact of the audience's knowledge, which is why we get so many horror franchises in which each successive installment has the feeling of a photocopy of a photocopy. This sequel, written by the original movie's screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, doesn't plead ignorance. The screenplay knows that we know the mythology of those keepsakes of murder and the demonic ghoul thing that keeps popping up in the middle of the night.

What does the screenplay do with this awareness of our awareness? Well, it doesn't do much of anything beyond letting us watch those gears predictably turn.

All sense of mystery is gone in this sequel. The movie gives us what we already know and what we've already seen, and it does so in ways that don't even come close to approaching the first movie's feeling of inevitable doom.

Take those snuff films, for example. In the first movie, there was a genuine sense of dread at the promise of seeing each one—the curiosity of how the next one could possibly outdo the previous one and the eventual realization that the movie was going to keep achieving that goal.

Here, the first home movie (not counting the only-a-dream one that opens the movie) shows a family hanging by their feet as their bodies dangle above a body of water. It almost seems unfair to reveal the method of the victims' expirations, if only because it is a real surprise. It's not a scary one, mind you. However, it is impressive how quickly and boldly Derrickson and Cargill announce that they have run out of ideas for their gimmick with the sudden, random appearance of a swamp-dwelling reptile.

The movie is being watched by Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan), who has recently moved to a parsonage next to a church in the farmland of Southern Illinois with his mother Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and brother Zach (Dartanian Sloan). The three are hiding from the boys' abusive father (Lea Coco) (The way the movie eventually utilizes domestic abuse a plot device is unpleasant). Dylan has been having nightmares and visions of that demon named Baghuul, and a group of ghost children comes to him every night with the promise to stop the dreams, if he just follows the damned kids to a secret cellar to watch one more of those cinematic documents of murder.

Our hero this time around is the bumbling deputy (James Ransone) of the previous movie, who has left law enforcement to become a private investigator. In his downtime, he tries to piece together the murders to which he was introduced in the last movie. He has the thankless but requisite task of wandering through poorly lit spaces (e.g., the church next door where the latest murders occurred, which, at least, doesn't have any obvious light sources that the deputy overlooks) or sitting in the dark before some innocent thing scares him—or maybe it really, actually is that ghoulish demon thingamabob.

Yes, this get tiresome rather quickly. Most of that has to do with the way the screenplay fails to provide anything to compensate for our familiarity with what is happening and what will happen (There's a twist of sorts near the end, which changes the eventual killer, but it's irrelevant since the killer's identity doesn't change what's about to occur). Some of the malaise, though, can also be attributed to director Ciarán Foy's predictable staging and rhythm, which let us know when every scare is going to happen well before it does. Narratively and formally, Sinister 2 is a lot of the same, old same-old.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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