Combining a clever premise that twisted around old genre tropes, a creepy villain, some stellar scares, a solid cast and a delightfully fetishistic use of 8mm film stock, Sinister‘ was a pleasant surprise. It seemed familiar when the trailer and other marketing materials rolled out, but Scott Derrickson’s movie was chillingly effective in a way few mainstream horror flicks are, and audiences responded. Of course, now there’s an unnecessary sequel.
The story opens with another grainy 8mm snuff movie, this time of a family dangling upside down in burlap sacks being set ablaze. From there, we’re introduced to a new family lead by Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twin boys Dylan and Zach (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan). Following an escape from their abusive father, they’ve moved into a farm house next to a church where a mysterious murder took place. Given the nature of the hauntings from the first movie, they’ve set themselves up to star in the sequel. The only person who realizes this is the lone holdover from the previous picture, former deputy So & So (James Ransone). Fired from the police and the only person who believes in the supernatural Sinister shenanigans, he’s the only one who can help or possibly stop the return of boogeyman/black metal inspired Bughuul. Will he do it? Hmmmm…
While the tightly constructed ‘Sinister’ left very little room for expansion, its twist ending did leave one element untouched that returning screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, along with Irish director Ciarán Foy (‘Citadel’), milk for all it’s worth. This time we get to see how the kids are manipulated into serving the evil spirit. Admittedly, it’s a creepy concept despite the use of some pretty cheesy vanishing ghost effects. Foy doesn’t dare attempt nearly as compelling a shadowy aesthetic as Derrickson managed in the first movie, but he has a certain skill with suspense and delivers a few genuinely chilling sequences. (One involving an empty hallway and a flashlight is undeniably effective.) Unfortunately, the best parts of the movie are the few isolated effective scare sequences. Overall, it simply doesn’t hang together very well.
Attempting to hinge the franchise around Ransone makes sense to an extent since he was a scene-stealer last time, but that character was also a single geeky joke without much depth. That becomes especially apparent here as he mumbles awkwardly through a plot that very tastelessly and cartoonishly exploits child abuse for haunted horror gain. It’s clear that the writers didn’t have much to say or do in the central narrative, so they pull the slasher movie trick of instead focusing on the kill scenes and racheting up their intensity. The 8mm family slaughters are more graphic this time out, as is the big ghost-battling climax. However, elaborate gore doesn’t necessarily improve a genre that’s based more around atmospheric dread than shock tactics.
‘Sinister’ stuck out from the mainstream genre pack with atmosphere and clever (if simple) storytelling. ‘Sinister 2’ merely hints at those things before devolving into yet another round of empty shock tactics. There are far worse horror movies out there, especially in the realm of unnecessary sequels. But there are also far better ones. This is about as mediocre as horror gets, with a couple high points that lift it above and a few low points that scrape the bottom of the barrel. The movie is best summed up with a single syllable: “Meh.”