Where science fiction is a trip, and exploration of an idea, horror is a mood, a feeling, usually bad. Science fiction is an intellectual thrill which can stand up to analysis, horror an emotional reaction which is usually irrational and is best experienced rather than considered. Yet where a clever idea can be further extrapolated, more often it is horror films which receive underserved sequels of diminishing returns.
Released in 2012, Sinister was a surprisingly effective horror film, penned by C Robert Cargill and director Scott Derrickson, a high point in his resume which he failed to match with 2014’s Deliver Us from Evil. Carried by the performance of the ever reliable Ethan Hawke and the deft misdirection of the plot, the truth of what the audience had witnessed was not revealed until the final moments when it was too late to avoid the inevitable.
A supporting character from that first film, Generation Kill’s James Ransome’s unnamed “Deputy So and So” has left the police but continued his investigation into the cross-country trail of killings which dead-ended with the unfortunate Oswalt family of the first film, a path which has now led him to the open prairies of rural Illinois, a farmhouse next to a wooden chapel where another atrocity took place.
Believing it to be deserted, he intends to burn it to the ground to stop the spread of the evil but to his surprise there is a family there, Courtney Collins (Wayward Pines’ Shannyn Sossamon) and her two young sons, Zach and Dylan (impressively played by brothers Dartanian and Robert Daniel Sloan), in hiding from Courtney’s possessive, violent and well-connected husband.
Directed by Citadel’s Ciarán Foy from a script again by Cargill and Derrickson, Sinister 2 may portray a different family in a different town some time after the original, but essentially it is almost the same story from a different point of view, a companion piece to the original whose shifted perspective defuses any tension or surprise the first film was able to generate, what was previously a twist tediously spelled out here.
Having witnessed the Super 8 reels found in the loft of the Oswalt family, the re-runs here – Fishing Trip, Christmas Morning, the high voltage Kitchen Remodeling – fail to shock as they should, the impact of the film having been diminished by the ghostly nocturnal visitations the boys and the audience have been witness to from the opening moments of the film before any atmosphere has been built, their appearance and manner too obviously lifted from Guillermo del Toro’s superior El espinazo del diablo.
While an attempt to explore and expand the mythology in hopes of building that much sought after franchise is made, what few new inclusions are offered ultimately detract rather than enhance, the revelation that the Bughuul actually has his own international radio show invites ridicule rather than generating suspense, particularly as the spectre of real domestic violence which haunts the film is far more terrifying than a spirit who gets children to carry messages for him
Where the first had undertones of Children of the Corn here they are realised in full before an overblown finale straight from the combustible Roger Corman/Edgar Allan Poe school of horror, a shame for an extremely good cast who offer earnest performances in defiance of the creative limitations they are up against.