Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Bloody and Disturbing Images, and Language
Directed by: Ciaran Foy
Written by: C. Robert Cargill & Scott Derrickson
Starring: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco & Tate Ellington
Special note: This review contains spoilers for 2012’s SINISTER. If you haven’t seen that film, then buy a copy and watch it in the dark with the volume cranked up to eleven. You’ll thank me later.
Horror is like Comedy in that it’s a genre that’s deeply subjective. Something that terrifies one person might not even phase someone else. I’ve loved the horror genre since I was about eight years old and very few movies have really, truly scared me to my core. SINISTER is on the short list of horror films that affect me on a deeply troubling level. I loved the 2012 shocker and consider it to be a modern masterpiece of the genre. That all being said, I didn’t see how a sequel could possibly work for Scott Derrickson’s original chiller. How could you possibly do a second installment without merely just rehashing the first film’s plot? SINISTER 2 does rehash a very similar story, but the screenplay (penned by the writers of the original film) does attempt to put a few new spins on the material. The result is a mixed bag of a sequel that’s still far better than it might have been in other hands.
Years have passed since Ellison Oswalt wound up as a sacrificial offering to ancient deity Bughuul. In that span of time, Deputy So & So (Oswalt’s man on the inside) has been fired from his job and taken up work as a private investigator. When he’s between clients, So & So tracks down cursed locations where bloody offerings have been made to Bughuul and burns them to the ground. His latest location (an abandoned church and the site of a particularly grisly sacrifice) may already be comprised as a divorced mother and her two twin sons are inhabiting a house on the property. While Deputy So & So tries to figure out how to prevent a seemingly inevitable slaughter to Bughuul, one of the twins is slowly being corrupted…
SINISTER 2 takes the HOSTEL: Part II approach in that it essentially tells the same story as the original film, but does so from a different point of view. Much like the second HOSTEL provided insight into the torture club, SINISTER 2 shows how children transform into killers for Bughuul. As a result, the ghosts of previous evil kids are the main antagonists this time around as opposed to Bughuul. Rest assured, the demon does make a few appearances in the form of quick jump scares. The script for SINISTER 2 also sports other interesting concepts (different forms of art serving as offerings), but merely glosses over them. This is especially frustrating when we’re told about an uncertain fate of one character from the previous film and nothing ever comes out of that.
Deputy So & So served as welcome comic relief in the dread-soaked SINISTER, but takes center stage as the main character this time around. As soon as I realized this was the case, I was bracing myself for something that could wind up being painfully inept. While there are definite awkward jokes, James Ransone does surprisingly well as a somewhat serious leading man. His scenes with Shannyn Sossamon (who I mainly recognize from that godawful ONE MISSED CALL remake) work far better than you would expect. The child actors are competent for the most part, especially the main evil ghost kid (who reminded me of Isaac from CHILDREN OF THE CORN).
Some might argue that the 8mm snuff films were the scariest part of the original SINISTER (for me, it was the nightmare-inducing conclusion) and the filmmakers attempt to up the ante in SINISTER 2’s recorded massacres. While the first film had a less-is-more approach (merely hinting at the gory horrors in a cringe-inducing lawnmower scene), SINISTER 2 revels in its violence by having alligators devour a family within the first reel. Sure, these kills are more ridiculous, but there’s still a creepy factor to every one of them. The ending of SINISTER 2 is where the ball really gets dropped. Instead of opting for a darker ending (one that was originally intended), SINISTER 2 goes for clichés and a predictable climax with a pretty bow tied on top (as well as a cheesy final jump scare). The effects during these final minutes aren’t convincing either with some of the worst CGI in recent memory.
Despite all of its problems, SINISTER 2 is not a terrible sequel. Even though it retreads the same basic ground as the first film, it attempts to do so in a different way. I was interested to see the story play out, even with noticeable problems in the plot and execution (pardon the pun). This horror sequel is a definite cash-grab that relies far more on loud noises, predictable pop-ups and an over-the-top slasher-esque attitude as opposed to the disturbing and terrifying tone of the first film. However, I never outright disliked this sequel and found bits of enjoyment in it nonetheless. SINISTER 2 is a flawed, forgettable sequel to a fantastic original horror flick.