Synopsis – A young mother and her twin sons move into a rural house that’s marked for death.
My Take – While the original starring Ethan Hawke released back in 2012 may not have been my favorite horror film at the time, I got to admit, it was a low-key winner. Through assured directing, slow-burn suspense, and a gripping, clearly invested performance by Ethan Hawke, the film was one of the genre’s standouts, proving that film about the paranormal had some discernible life and potential longevity in it. For many horror films, once the possibility of a franchise solidifies itself among bankable names, it takes many blunders for it to lose traction. Yet, quantity usually triumphs over quality and thus leaving many franchises to quickly run out of steam due to lack of interest and just trying to make a quick cash-in. The original written and directed by up-and-coming Scott Derrickson created quite a fan-base for the villain of Bughuul (Nicholas King). Even with the last half of the film’s execution being almost transparent in predictability and protagonists that weren’t the easiest to sympathize with, its first half was exceptionally well crafted in its premise and its mysterious clues that was left behind. It had something (in my opinion) but wasn’t fully realized. Luckily instead of giving us a straight rehash of the original, the sequel changes the perspective from the parents to the kids and introduces a menacing, ghostly group of children that give the Children of the Corn a run for their money in terms of creepiness. By shifting the perspective, setting and approach to the material by just the right amount, maintaining yet expanding the lore and cleverly retooling key elements set in the original. The family is more prominent and interesting, a writer’s studying is replaced by a protective former cop (Deputy So and So returns from the 1st film) whose fondness for, and bonding with, his charges grow and develop. And the films are shown for a different reason. Bughuul appears in different ways, somewhat more overt, at times more compelling. Even though at times the deaths go too far, ending up as torture porn, they do are genuinely scary rather than just being merely gross. The original focused so heavily on a mystery that was solved by the end, so how do you make another one when we already know what’s going on? C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson pull that off by offering something totally different that still feels familiar. We follow the madness from a child’s perspective this time, and that allows us to explore the rules of this universe in a really interesting way. In the first one we’re begging for the Oswalt family to leave the house, but this time, we’re begging for the family to stay in it. The formula is flipped around a bit, and while still being structured around a collection of film reels, this sequel feels different enough to justify its existence.
The story follows Ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone), discharged from the force (after the events of the 1st film), continues to make it his mission to keep families from inhabiting the houses that the murderous killings took place. Meanwhile, Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) a divorced mother and her two sons Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan) are trying to stay secluded from their abusive husband/father’s radar Clint (Lea Coco). Where are they? Taking refuge in a farm house where the next door Church was were one of Bughuul’s sacrifices took place. Bughuul has taken numerous children, seen only as ghosts by similar-aged children headed by a boy named Milo (Lucas Jade Zumann), and Zach begins to fall prey to Bughuul’s temptation. The direction by Ciarán Foy (Citadel released in 2012) and the writing help greatly in making this viewing a much more significant watch. There’s simply more going on, and contrary to the trailer, the film is not loaded with jump scares. When they occur, which is seldom, the music is more revelatory than “BOO”! This builds solid tension and suspense. Ideas for what grips us are creative, at times excessively so. This moves nicely along, giving enough time to each major plot point. While this improves on the first in few ways, it takes enough risks and gives us the right amount of the unexpected, that which we didn’t get before. As with the original, the use of sound in this film is an experience in itself, expertly cutting together music and effects to heighten the hallucinatory nature of what’s going on. In a rare occurrence for a horror film, there is actually a second plot line. I mean, this is like a real movie. While some will be annoyed by the extra story because it takes away from the supernatural stuff, it’s a great development that makes the characters real people, so that you actually care what happens to them. It’s also a grim reminder that some things in real life are just as scary as a ghost. The movie quickly but cleverly uses an obscure, but actually real, phenomenon known as “numbers stations” to give a greater scope to Bughuul’s actions. Despite having more pluses, it has its share of negatives as well for examples, it sets up so many elements but really goes over them quickly. Another thing that could be taken either way is this different aspect that the ghost children essentially drive the innocent child to kill their own family and its done willingly. I personally liked this aspect. However, in the original it felt like the Bughuul had more influence over the events that were happening in the film. You also felt that the kid was truly innocent and sort of controlled by Bughuul. It seems a bit different and almost a different film, and I could see how anyone would say there isn’t enough Bughuul in the film.
It still has its continuity errors and is practically scare less, yet it manages to resurface itself above the original by having writing that gives more background information and personality to its villain and a more agreeable set of protagonists. The cinematography is also an improvement while sustaining the disturbing footage and foreboding film score. Among the performances, the standout without any doubt is James Ransone, who’s naturalistic presence is sure to go unnoticed amidst all the chaos and the jump scares embedded in the film’s story. Ransone is incredibly believable, maintaining a composed yet believable character throughout the entire picture. Though my memory is admittedly fuzzy on the original, I can’t remember Ransone commanding the screen in that film like he does here. Shannyn Sossamon and the Sloan brothers bring in performances that are much more interesting to watch. It is kind of surprising though when Lea Coco plays a more frightening antagonist than Bughuul himself. That’s not to say Nicholas King as Bughuul isn’t effective. Bughuul is still an uncomfortable villain and with more information on his background and personality, he’s more than just a spook now. On the whole, ‘Sinister 2′, is a bigger & better film, both aesthetically and tonally, in comparison to its original. Its more striking visually and thematically. Its unfortunate a film like this have been anchored down by negative critical reviews & lukewarm box office performance (in comparison to the original). Well, this maybe another sign of shift in audience taste! Who knows! Yet, Hollywood will not give up its latest “get rich quick” scheme of making supernatural films for little to no cost to all-but-guarantee an opening weekend haul of more than the production and marketing budget combined. “Sinister 2” arrives during a year that has seen a good third chapter of the “Insidious” franchise, the stylishly awesome “It Follows,” which came out of nowhere and shocked most of its audiences, maybe thats another cause! Nevertheless If you like your horror movies like “The Conjuring“, if you want your horror movies to mean something, to stick with you, and even make you genuinely uncomfortable, then you owe it to both yourself and the horror genre to watch this film.
Director – Ciarán Foy
Rated – R
Run Time – 97 minutes