Co-writer Scott Derickson and director Ciaran Foy’s Sinister 2 plays out like a feature-length example of why the original film, a modern masterpiece of terror that was penned and coordinated with a deft eye for building genuine suspense and giving us a tale which harked into the character-driven feel of the subtle turning to gruesomeness in a Stephen King story far more than any of the features based on the literary master’s tales with sharp auteur skills and cinematic coordination by Derickson (whose directorial touch is desperately missed in this follow-up and collaborated with C. Robert Carghill for the first film’s screenplay), should have been a stand-alone effort. Sinister 2 does this, in true horror sequel fashion, by taking everything brilliant about the 2012 Ethan Hawke starred work (whose multi-layered presence is also sorely missed) and throwing it out the window in exchange for ceaseless cheap scares, stock characters it spends far too much of the movie with but never get to know and a pace that takes its time getting precisely where we expect it to and without even the faintest tinge of surprise or invention along the way.
To add to the many faults present in its painfully protracted ninety-seven minutes, the film vaguely attempts to fabricate a romantic sub-plot, which should have no place whatsoever in a motion picture, which wishes to quicken the pulse and the heart, of this nature. This unnecessary bit is between the terribly miscast, and gratingly slapstick, deputy from the original, James Ransone, whose performance is such a low-grade attempt at mimicking Bruce Campbell’s iconic Ash persona in 1988’s more comedic Evil Dead 2 and 1992’s Army of Darkness that it demolishes any stab at all at recreating some of the atmosphere of Derickson’s initial outing, and the single mother whose children are the ones haunted by Buughuul’s collection of the long deceased youth, Shannon Sossamon as Courtney Collins. Ransone, whose character exemplifies just how lackadaisical and careless the writing present is by still carrying on with his head-scratching name, Ex-Deputy So and So, is an endeavor that shows no chemistry between the leads and feels as forced as this unnecessary, and time consuming, piece is into this story. It is meant to make us feel for these individuals, in the most exhausted way imaginable, but adds nothing to the story except long stretches of endless talk in between the atrocious computer generated imagery (with effects credited to a jaw-dropping, given the terrible results, cast of nearly thirty people), equally pathetic make-up work, tepid and obviously done on shoestring budget cinematography by Amy Vincent and bland costume design from Stephani Lewis. It also provides something else for Ransone to do but walk slowly down long hallways in an attempt to create atmosphere, and pad the runtime, in the most routine way imaginable and for Sossamon to look scared, bored and oblivious, as she does throughout this frustrating vehicle and another reason for the audience to check their watches.
The worst crime Sinister 2 commits is making the once menacing and ethereal Bughuul, who had a history and a persona which matched the film’s title perfectly, into horror cinema’s version of Uncle Fester from The Addam’s Family. Instead of being show in computer reflections, as he does occasionally in one of this sequel’s many frantic endeavors to tie itself to the first feature, and lurking in the shadows to add to his enigmatically ominous appeal as he did in Sinister to such wonderful effect, Bughuul is shown often and given nothing more to do than watch the once eerie children. This was wisely more suggested than anything in Sinister but, given so much of the spotlight in its follow-up that any creepiness attached to them is no longer present. Bughuul now looks like he would rather pat them these kids on the shoulder like a stiff, over-worked father figure and would rather be watching a baseball game on television with his feet up than keeping his eyes on these laughable variations on the ‘creepy kid’ archetype.
All of these portrayers of youthful monsters appear to be combating to be the winner in giving the most uninspired, mechanical performance. Even Sossamon’s victimized sons, who we are supposed to be rooting for, true life brothers Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan as Dylan and Zach Collins respectively, seem to be partaking in the competition. These insufferable acting displays dominate most of what we see and are, sadly, given much more of the film’s run-time than the single reason we are putting up with these mounting flaws: Bughuul himself. If they would’ve taken the concept of Buughuul as the worn-out paternal half of this undead family, even in passing, and played it up as such it would’ve at least given Sinister 2 some unintentional humor and a brief fling with the creativity the rest of the motion picture heavily lacks.
Sinister 2, which owes more to the seemingly endless direct-to-video Children of the Corn sequels than the intriguing plotline set-up by Derickson’s original, throws together the formulaic elements of a single mother, the kind stranger who has more interest in the house and its history than its owner, or the screenwriters, seem to want to concern themselves with and Bughuul’s children forcing Dylan and Zach to watch the snuff videos of their murders. When these are shown it provides the only moments in the whole movie which seem to echo the unnerving, grindhouse impression left by the original. A scene involving a Sunday Church Service and bloodthirsty rats is the one time the movie completely hones in on the first feature in this series, until it erupts into the predictable strains of violence necessary for the climax to a by the numbers late 80’s fear film.
The movie is so visibly constrained by its low budget and the rote elements of its storyline, and the four credited writers’ inability to commit anything resembling a fair or new idea to the trite and hollow screenplay, that even when all hell breaks loose it lasts all of ten minutes and feels to rushed to get what it has to get done to take its audiences money to resemble anything like the gradual, competent and skin crawling atmosphere Derickson himself evoked the first time we were introduced to Buughuul. This results in a finale which is just as underwhelming, anyone looking for a bloodbath will be especially disappointed in how unusually coy this whole endeavor is, and bankrupt on all technical angles of storytelling and filmmaking in general as the rest of this unnecessary piece of cinema.
Not only does Sinister 2 present itself as a motion picture length example of why there should never have been a sequel to the original but, also, what is wrong with terror sequels in general. Like 1985’s Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge and 1989’s Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, the lack of concern put into all facets of its filmmaking, all in an effort to make money of the legendary promise of a new horror villain we can all adore that came with the promise of the character of Bughuul in the initial venture, cannot be denied. If you look vaguely beneath the dim veneer you can see this truth reflecting back to you in every frame. Not only does it make Sinister 2 a pointless endeavor in both the talent involved and in utilizing the audience’s time but, it puts a bitter aftertaste in your mouth when you think of the Bughuul’s masterful prior outing. This comes from knowing the enigma and all the avenues Derickson created and could’ve traveled down in the first film and how he squandered it all in the name of a quick buck when the filmmakers should’ve just let Bughuul and his children rest in peace.