Horror sequels are tough nuts to crack.
Successful originals usually prosper because of their lower budgets, as financial restraint means that more focus is put on genuine scares, spooky mythology, and shocking twists -- each of which keep you glued to the edge of your seat. But success in Hollywood breeds repetition. Just with way more money. It doesn’t matter if the story actually warrants an additional tale. (It usually doesn’t.)
Sinister 2 fits right into that bracket. While I found the original undeniably scary and tense (plus it was also expertly led by the always watchable Ethan Hawke), after it concluded I felt no desire or rush to know anything more about its world. But after grossing $88 million from a $3 million budget, we were always going to catch-up with Bughuul again whether we liked it or not. Unfortunately, Sinister 2 hardly attempts to add to its mythology; instead taking us through the same traipse of the original, but in a much less gripping fashion.
With Ethan Hawke wisely deciding to reject Sinister 2, the leading roles are giving to James Ransone and Shannyn Sossamon. Fans of Sinister will remember Ransone as the local deputy, while Sossamon plays the mother of two 9-year-old twin sons who are looking to stay away from their abusive father.
In order to do just that, they move into a local farmhouse. Unfortunately for them, their new home is also inhabited by the Bughuul; a bloodthirsty pagan deity who consumes the souls of children by making them watch increasingly disgusting filmed murders of previous tenants, which then leads the viewer to kill their own family. Shortly after moving into the abode, one of the twins starts being hounded by the Bughuul’s posse of children, who make him watch clips of the variety of murders that have been committed in the house. This, they hope, will then lead him to murder his own family in an equally graphic fashion.
Unfortunately, like many other horror sequels, Sinister 2 simply treads the same ground as its more impressive predecessor, and in the end it comes up short in almost every fashion. Yes, there are moments when you’ll be shocked and surprised by a sudden camera movement or the emergence of a ghoul, but as soon as these moments are done you’ll instantly remember that Sinister 2 lacks any atmosphere or genuine peril or dread, all of which just results in it being wearisome.
With Scott Derrickson having been acquired by Marvel Studios to oversee Doctor Strange, the director’s chair for Sinister 2 has instead been taken up by Ciaran Foy. And to be fair to Foy - whose work on 2012’s Citadel got him his first mainstream horror gig - there are one or two sequences that suggest he has a knack for creating tense and caustic scenes. One in particular, which sees Ransone’s detective investigating a dilapidated church for clues, isn’t rushed, and is instead patiently drawn out for shocks. These moments are few and far between though, and are completely whitewashed by the film’s generic acting, obvious plotting and cheap scares.
Meanwhile Derrickson, who co-wrote Sinister 2 with C. Robert Cargill, also deserves his share of the blame for a flimsy script that fails to build any suspense or pace and is populated with characters that are so bone-idle you just want to reach into the screen and slap some sense into them. Plus, Ethan Hawke’s dual lead replacements are unable to burden the weighty averageness of Sinister 2 in the manner that the Boyhood actor did so impressively the first time out. Yeah, they share some nice laughs and hint at a romance, but Ransone and Sossamon are ultimately left floundering in a sea of cinematic deficiency that they in no way heighten.
In the end, Sinister 2 is exactly what you expect a horror sequel. So if you’re looking for a mindless flick that will shock you at least twice before you instantly forget about it; go ahead and enjoy. Beyond that, don't expect much.