If you never saw Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill’s brilliant 2012 Blumhouse horror Sinister then I suggest you not only go right ahead and watch it but also that you don’t watch Sinister 2 or read this review until you have.
What all those that have now closed this page and headed to their favorite steaming service to watch the original Sinister are about to find out is that what worked so well in the original film is that during the first half you really had no idea what the hell was going on and that made it perfectly petrifying.
As real crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) delves deeper into the horrific murder of the family that lived in the house he is now residing in with his own wife and kids stranger and scarier things happen around him and the discovery of the horrendously disturbing home movies depicting different families being executed leads the viewer to question is the source of this simply some twisted serial killer, ghostly forces or something else entirely.
The revelation towards the film’s final act that it is in fact the demon Bughuul that is corrupting the mind of Ellison’s son as he has done several times before to force him into slaying his family and taking his place by the demon’s side pushes the story firmly into the realms of the supernatural and for me lessoned the tension and power of the fear because as we all know it’s the unknown that is the most chilling thing of all.
Luckily what Derrickson and Cargill succeeded in doing was leaving plenty of room within the mythos they created for a solid Sinister sequel and Sinister 2 penned by the duo but this time directed by Ciarán Foy picks up a few years later from the events of the first film.
James Ransone returns now an ex-deputy after his involvement with Hawke’s character traveling the country continuing the crusade against Bughuul by destroying the homes where families have been murdered by one of their children before anyone can move into them and succumb to the same fate.
Unfortunately one home on his list beside an old church which he believed to be vacant is in fact inhabited by single mum Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) on the run with her twin boys from their abusive and powerful father who is determined to get them all back under his painful patriarchal control.
It is here that Dylan the meeker and milder of the brothers is approached by group of ghostly children all under Bughuul’s influence eager to show him their home movies depicting the ghastly and gruesome murders of their own families in an attempt to pervert his love of his mother to hate and join them in their hellish netherworldly existence. From here a battle begins to save the family before history repeats itself and the demon wins himself another innocent soul.
In direct opposition to the first film by focusing on the brothers and Dylan’s dark and terrible temptation the power of the horror in Sinister 2 comes from being aware of what is going on and watching a young boy be tormented and tainted by the perverse demon and his army of lost souls.
Abused as a child Dylan is deeply scarred psychologically by his early childhood as is his brother who is filled with rage and much of Sinister 2 revolves around adults protecting the young from the horrors of the world which is ultimately impossible especially with the immense power of peer pressure in the young which we see played out.
Interestingly Sinister 2 reveals that the act of recording the murders is part of the ritual that summons and sustains Bughuul almost hinting that the evil resides within the art form of cinema itself like in The Ring.
The distinction between the found footage style of the genuinely unnerving and terrifying killings and the more conventional cinematic structure and filming of the rest of the movie could therefore be seen as an attack against our modern day obsession with documenting real life and the 24 hour news phenomenon which sees sensational, salacious and shocking imagery entering our homes, phones and computers at all times.
This all adds into the idea of the dangers of desensitisation that can take place when people are over exposed to extremely violent and horrific imagery as Dylan is as the other young killers indoctrinate him into their satanic murder club by playing their atrocities over and over again every night.
All this is not to say that Sinister 2 is still fundamentally at its core a Hollywood horror and the action and scares are excellently done with the plot moving forward at a great pace to the alarming and nasty climax which more than delivers.
Achieving what so few sequels manage to do by being as engaging, thought-provoking and downright scary as the original Sinister 2 is a great continuation of the original idea expanding the universe and story with a cracking cast and excellent scares even leaving room for further development.
Let’s hope somewhere on Derrickson and Cargill’s computers is a Word file named Sinister 3.