* * 1/2
Dir. Ciaran Foy, 2015
Sinister 2 might be the best possible sequel that could have been made for the original film about a demon that gets kids to commit grizzly murders on film. Whereas the first film looked at the author/creator and questioned how someone can enter evil and darkness to attempt to create a story, this film turns to look at the viewers. Sinister 2 is, at least for its first 2/3rds, a horror film about the dangers of horror films.
The deputy from the first film (James Ransone) is the major continuity from the first film, part of the long tradition of less-famous actors in peripheral roles taking over horror franchises. His character is a nice, likeable change of pace, especially compared to the grizzly subject matter; however, at times he does go a bit too much to the Dewey from Scream side of the spectrum. He’s traveling the country investigating the homes where the awkwardly named Buguul (just a few notches above Pazuzu in the demon name coolness scale) has enticed kids to kill their families, and trying to figure out a way to stop the killings. Even though in the opening scene of the film as he awkwardly asks a Priest how to stop evil, the Priest’s advice is that you can’t; you can defend yourself from it.
While looking for another murder house, the Deputy (he still doesn’t get a name) finds Courtney and her twin sons (Zach and Dylan) hiding out in it from their abusive father (this whole subplot is promising but really poorly handled at times). But we as viewers know he’s too late; Dylan has been communicating with some ghost kids (handled really quite well for ghost characters, especially creepy kids) who are making him watch the demon’s snuff films. These films were the most mysterious and disturbing parts of the first film but here feel gimmicky and unnecessary, presented in almost anthology film fashion by the children. In the grand horror tradition of terribly messy contradictions, this film is arguing that evil is alluring but seeking after it, literally seeking after horror on film, will lead to a loss of innocence and violence while at the same time delivering scenes of terrible violence concocted to thrill its audience.
Scott Derrickson, the director of the first Sinister and co-writer of this film, is one of my favorite genre directors because he inhabits this contradictory space of horror so deeply; his films are deeply religious and deeply horrific. While religion is present here, it’s not nearly as present as in his other films. However, Derrickson and his co-writer Robert Cargill, should be commended for departing so much from the original film while maintaining its spirit. A good deal doesn’t work, but this is a surprisingly good horror sequel, and far better than its reviews would suggest. I’d rather a horror film take chances and give me something different than to use the same formula again and maybe make a more cohesive film. The other credit goes to its director, Ciaran Foy, perhaps best known for his 2012 film Citadel, a movie that I didn’t really like but showed plenty of promise. Many horror films tend to feel myopic in vision, but here Foy opens up his story world and frame a bit more; it allows too much in, but it also lets in a few interesting ideas along the way.