Lacklustre sequel starring Shannyn Sossamon that bungles both the story and frights
With 2012’s Sinister, writer-director Scott Derrickson created a smart modern horror that was almost entirely undone by its final act. Ethan Hawke put in a sterling performance as troubled writer Ellison Oswalt, whose discovery of horrifying home movies triggered a truly creepy psychological chiller. Unfortunately, a third reel supernatural revelation felt anticlimactic, and this lacklustre sequel follows in the same disappointing vein.
Derrickson and co-writer C Robert Cargill are back on writing duties, but Irish filmmaker Ciáran Foy (Citadel) takes over at the helm. The only returning cast members are James Ransone, as the police detective now booted off the force and conducting his own investigation, and Nicholas King as Bughuul, the towering monster of the piece. Both converge on the isolated home of single mum Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) – in hiding from her violent husband with her two young sons – where Bughuul’s posse of ghost children hold nightly basement screenings of their macabre snuff films.
It’s a narrative as by-the-numbers as it sounds. Everything from the characters to the attempted scares are hewn from cliché: children prowl around in the dark, Bughuul lurks in every reflective surface and Courtney is utterly helpless in the face of both supernatural and real-world terrors. Ransone’s detective is bumbling and awkward, so blunt-edged that the actor can’t help but ham it up at every turn. 'What am I doing here?' he says to himself at one point. Quite.
You could perhaps forgive Sinister 2 all these things if it delivered on the scares, but it makes the rookie mistake of showing far too much from the get-go. The boogeyman is terrifying in prospect – and in glimpses – but so much screen-time is given to his looming bulk that he is divested of all his fear factor. It’s the same with the ghostly kids, who are less malevolent spirits and more irritating frog chorus of doom.
Perhaps knowing this, the film relies a great deal on those grisly home movies to provide much of the horror, but the endless footage feels like gruelling torture porn rather than a valuable plot device. And with its over-use also comes an uncomfortable – if unintentional – message about the harmful effect of scary images on vulnerable viewers, at stark odds with the cheap genre thrills the film is desperately trying to administer.
General release from Fri 21 Aug.