SINISTER 2 Pulls Back The Curtain — Blu-ray Review

Sinister 2 arrives on Blu-ray on January 12 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

We are giving away a copy of Sinister 2, courtesy of Universal! Check out the giveaway here.

This review contains spoilers of the original Sinister (2012).

In October of 2012, the $3 million shocker Sinister thrilled audiences and became an incredibly profitable hit, due in part to its miniscule budget. The film had struck a massive chord with its spectacular kill sequences, captured in eerie, grainy Super8. More poignantly, it had taken the horrible “found footage” subgenre and turned it on its head — this was literally the story of the found footage. Sinister’s success put its co-writers/director team of C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson in high demand, busying them with high profile projects (Derrickson, for example, is currently directing Marvel’s highly anticipated Dr. Strange adaptation).

Sinister’s runaway success pretty much guaranteed that a sequel would be made, but with Derrickson busy on other projects it became clear he wouldn’t be able to direct. He personally tapped Ciarán Foy, the man behind the highly underrated Irish chiller Citadel, which I’ve previously highlighted as an underrated horror gem, to take the reins while Cargill and Derrickson would again handle the script.

So we’ve got three creators that I greatly admire, handling a sequel to a movie I really enjoyed. That sounds like a great combination, and it is, but unfortunately Sinister 2 simply isn’t as good as Sinister or even Citadel, mainly because it pulls back the curtain too far. That said, I do think it’s a much better film than it’s been made out to be. It probably helped that I watched the original film again right before diving into this sequel, getting a refresher course on Deputy So & So, as well as the villainous wraith Bughuul’s history and tactics.

Credit Sinister 2 for not being afraid to change things up. This is not another story of “man finds a box of snuff films”. It has connective roots in the first film, but breaks out narratively to tell a different story and a flipped perspective.

The first film’s awkward and jittery fan favorite “Deputy So & So” (James Ransone) returns as the primary link to the first film, now upgraded to the lead role. This was a risky move, given the character’s nervous habits and sheepish behavior, but is actually one of the sequel’s most genuine pleasures. The now Ex-Deputy So & So (whose name is still not revealed) now devotes his life to stopping the Bughuul murders which claimed the life of the Oswalt family. An early scene shows him in his office, his walls a collage of news clippings, maps, and photos, much like Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) in the first film. Unlike Ellison, though, So & So is motivated by righteousness rather than hubris, and it makes his character much more endearing. He’s also a stronger character now, a result of having waged a one-man war against Bughuul these last couple years.

His crusade takes him to a rural house and adjoining church where the most recent Bughuul slayings took place, where he meets single mom Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) and twin sons, Dylan and Zach. Here the story most clearly deviates from the first film’s pattern as we see how the boys are directly confronted by Bughuul’s ghost children, coercing Dylan, the more sensitive of the two, into watching their snuff films with the promise that it’ll make his nightmares go away. Unfortunately this aspect of the film is the most damaging. The presence of the kids feel more inspired by Village Of the Damned or Children Of The Corn than Sinister, and their presence, or perhaps more accurately the dissolution of the air of mystery around them, actually evaporates a lot of the film’s tension rather than amping up the scares.

The snuff films themselves are still pretty interesting, but their place in the narrative is weaker. As a result, they don’t feel as shocking even though they are more elaborate and outrageous this round, not to mention being watched by a child rather than an adult.

So & So and Courtney spark up a bit of a romance, and this is one of the more interesting developments. This plays out against another subplot in which Courtney’s politically powerful and aggressively abusive ex-husband stalks her and tries to force her to surrender the boys and return to his home. In Sinister, protagonist Ellis was obsessive and self-centered, detaching him a bit from the audience. But this time, I was definitely rooting for these sympathetic characters, extending also to Courtney’s timid but stouthearted son, Dylan, whose personality is similar to So & So’s.

Sinister 2 was fundamentally an impossible task. The first film was terrific, but left the creators painted into a corner. The original protagonist was dead and the shocking 8mm snuff films that so defined the first film would be expected to make a return, making it necessary to incorporate them into the narrative somehow — but without simply rehashing the first film’s plot. I think the filmmakers actually did an admirable job of trying to address these challenges, but it didn’t quite pan out and the result is a rather average horror film that doesn’t aspire to the highwater mark of its predecessor. That said, I generally liked it, mostly because of the more relatable and interesting characters, and am still interested in the possible continuance of this series. In short, I was more invested, but less scared.

While he doesn’t appear, the film makes reference to Professor Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio) as having disappeared. This may have just been a quick line to explain the actor’s absence from the project, but I kind of hope that the third Sinister, if indeed one is made, will tie into his story somehow.

The Package

Sinister 2 arrives on Blu-ray in a nice looking edition with a moderate set of special features.

My copy came with a slipcase with an appealing design with both matte and glossy textures.

Special Features and Extras

Time To Watch Another: The Making of Sinister 2 (10:11)
 Jason Blum, Ciarán Foy, Scott Derrickson, and others give us a look behind the scenes. Topics covered include how Foy came to be involved, So & So as the protagonist, the snuff films, and the practical effects involved with villain Bughuul as well as a complex sequence involving a stuntman on fire.

Deleted Scenes (9:22)
 Surprisingly, these are fairly meaty, even including a kill scene. I imagine these were probably excised for not being central to the plot.

Extended Kill Films
 Blu-ray exclusive. The full kill films presented without the cutaways or framing of the theatrical feature. Of particular note is the one involving a dentist’s drill, of which only a brief shot appears in the movie.

Feature Commentary With Director Ciarán Foy

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
 Sinister 2 [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]
 Sinister [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]

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