HomeMoviesREVIEW — “Sinister 2” (In Depth)

REVIEW — “Sinister 2” (In Depth)

Sinister, the 2012 Scott Derrickson horror film that starred Ethan Hawke, didn’t need a sequel. Not many horror films do. But Blumhouse Productions – the company that you associate with every bad horror movie since 2009 – made a profit on Sinister, so the sequel was dropped off on our front door, like Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch: an unbearable, annoying, piece of sh*t that would be better off having never existed. Not only is Sinister 2 bland and predictable, if you’ve seen the final trailer, you’ve seen the whole movie. But here’s your mild spoiler warning.

Sinister 2 is the Cousin Oliver of movies. Put that on the Blu-ray cover.
Sinister 2 is the Cousin Oliver of movies. Put that on the Blu-ray cover.

Generally speaking, horror movies – or good horror movies – use the opening scenes to set a tone, establish a world, and tell the audience what they’re in for. Sinister 2 begins with a cheap jump scare: a child lies in a bed, half sleeping, when a dead ghost boy pops into frame. Accompanied by a loud shriek in the score, of course. It’s not only predictable, it’s cheap and lazy. That’s what you’re in store for with the unbearable ninety minutes that compose Sinister 2: cheap jump scare, after cheap jump scare, after cheap jump scare. If you’re like Buddy the Elf from Elf, and every predictable, telegraphed, lazy pop-up and “boo” scares you, you’ll find Sinister 2 terrifying.

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If you get your scares and jollies from loud noises and things popping up, you’re better off staying home and throwing nine dollars at your smoke detector when it beeps in the middle of the night, alerting you that it needs batteries. There is no skill, talent, or creativity present in any single frame of Sinister 2. It doesn’t take talent or skill to blast a loud noise in an attempt to startle your audience – it’s no different from popping around a corner and yelling, “Boo!” Any child is capable of popping out from somewhere and shouting “boo” – and filmmakers have a responsibility to transcend childish antics and deliver what every horror film, ideally, should do: a sense of dread, atmosphere, tension, and suspense.

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Like many Blumhouse productions before it, Sinister 2 isn’t concerned with creating atmosphere. It’s not concerned with generating tension, suspense, and affecting the audience that way. No; Sinister 2 is concerned with seeing how many times you can jump from a loud burst in the soundtrack. It’s cheap, it’s lazy, and – worst of all – it’s forgettable. You, as an audience member, may be caught off guard and startled by a loud noise, but that cheap, lazy, non-effort immediately subsides.

A face popping up in a reflection or kids popping up from behind a trunk lid isn’t scary. It’s no different from turning a corner and accidentally bumping into another cart at the supermarket. Good horror – real horror, and horror that’s effective – is the kind of horror that stays with you. It’s the kind of horror, dread, and unease that can come only from filmmakers who are actually trying to scare their audience.

Sinister 2 is the old “snake in a tin can” trick: you might be caught off guard, you might be startled momentarily, but that cheap jump is nothing compared to the kind of fear that can come from tension, suspense, and atmosphere.

For a more modern equivalent, Sinister 2 is the “scare maze” game from the internet:

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Would you pay ten dollars to be scared by that scare maze? No, you wouldn’t – and you shouldn’t give the producers of Sinister 2 your money for the same effect. Maybe you are the kind of person who scares easy – you jump at every shrill burst in the generic soundtrack, or you’re startled when something pops up out of nowhere.

You jump, you scream, you laugh, you forget it. Chances are, the horror movies that scared you as a kid – the ones that made you double check that the door was locked, or you crawled into bed with mom and dad – are the horror movies that put an actual effort into scaring you.

These are the kind of movies that made you want to leave the light on when you got home, because they stuck with you. John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween was so scary, and so effective, because it could have happened to you. Michael Myers disappeared by the end reel – and he could have been right outside your window.

Those feelings of dread, suspense, and fear simply don’t happen when a “horror movie” relies on nothing but loud noises and objects popping into frame. To engage those primal feelings within you – the ones that get your heart racing when you’re afraid – takes a skilled filmmaker, and one who puts in effort. That, most of all, is what Sinister 2 lacks with director Ciarán Foy.

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If your “horror movie” relies on loud noises and jump scares, instead of tension, suspense, and atmosphere, your horror movie is an inherent failure. There’s no skill in yelling “boo.” There’s a difference between startling your audience and scaring them, and the filmmakers behind this film were willfully ignorant of that fact. Blumhouse doesn’t want to scare you: they want to trade you a few jumps for your hard-earned ten dollars.

Sinister 2, in that respect, is like a cheap, cobbled-together haunted house plastered with paper ghosts and minimum wage workers popping out to shout “boo”: once the experience is over, you’re left feeling more ripped off than scared.

After Sinister 2‘s pathetic attempt at an opening scare, the film starts with mother Courtney and her two sons, Dylan and Zach, in a supermarket. We meet Dylan and Zach as they treat the supermarket like their own, personal playground, engaging in a game with play guns. After a disagreement, the obnoxious pretend gun play turns into an even more obnoxious shouting match. This is how you introduce these characters to your audience? Two brats having free reign on an unsuspecting store, with a mother who is too busy purchasing deli meat to care? If I wanted to be subjected to two unruly, screaming brats, I’d go stand in line at a Walmart.

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Then, something suspicious happens: a strange man takes a picture of Courtney, doing it so inconspicuously (and not at all completely obviously taking a picture of you, ma’am, just photographing the beautiful cheese packets behind you) that Courtney immediately goes into “stranger danger” mode. “What’s our code word,” she prompts the boys, obviously speaking to the audience instead of merely reminding the kids what the obviously-drilled-into-their-heads code word is.

“Rutabaga,” they say. Courtney bumps her shopping cart into an understandably annoyed shopper, and then, with her twin boys standing right next to her: “RUTABAGA,” screams Courtney, “RUTABAGA!”

It was so absurd, so ridiculous, I laughed with such a guffaw that the girl who was seated next to me is unlikely to return my phone calls in the future. Your kids are standing right next to you, lady. Why are you screaming like you’re watching a shark attack from the beach in Jaws? Shoppers on the other side of the store must have thought there was a flash sale on some particularly delicious Rutabagas.

Courtney and sons escape the store, as if pursued by the undead in a B-movie. Not five minutes into this movie, and two things are on my mind: first, I hate this family, and second, I’m going to have to research Rutabagas when I get home. That’s an interesting food name; what is the root of origin? How exactly do you spell “Rutabaga?” I should really pick up some Rutabagas.

The film continues – unfortunately – and Courtney meets Deputy So & So, from the first Sinister. I didn’t forget his name – that is his character’s name. Seriously. The filmmakers give so little of a sh*t that they couldn’t bother to actually name the protagonist. Maybe the filmmakers were going for a Man with no name angle, but Deputy So & So is no Clint Eastwood. In fact, he’s more like a human version of Sheriff Woody from Toy Story.

Let's play the "which one is from Sinister and which one is from Toy Story?" game.
Let’s play the “which one is from Sinister and which one is from Toy Story?” game.

That’s an insult to both Woody and Toy Story, as Toy Story’s cowboy pull-string doll is infinitely more interesting than Deputy Dipsh*t here. Deputy Whats-his-face is more like Mater from Cars 2: he was the bumbling, goofy, derp-y sidekick from the first movie, and now he’s the bumbling, goofy, derp-y lead of the second movie. Deputy So & So, who looks like Woody from Toy Story and acts like Gomer Pyle, references Sinister‘s Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) several times, sorrowfully referring to him as “my friend.”

Were they old school chums? War buddies? No, Deputy So & So was such good friends with Ellison that the Derp-uty was christened “Deputy S0 & So” by the now dearly departed author who couldn’t be bothered to learn the Deputy’s name. (Dude, you guys met, like, three times. He poured you coffee, you spouted some exposition, yada yada yada, you weren’t friends).

"Shame, shame, shame! Golly, ol' Ellison didn't remember my name, but we was such good friends, me 'n that feller! I've gone and done taken up ghost huntin' in his honor! Goll-ee, real life ghosts 'n stuff! SHAZAM!"
“Shame, shame, shame! Golly, ol’ Ellison didn’t remember my name, but we was such good friends, me ‘n that feller! I’ve gone and done taken up ghost huntin’ in his honor! Goll-ee, real life ghosts ‘n stuff! SHAZAM!”

So Barney Fife – er, Gomer Pyle – damn, Sheriff Woody – uh, Deputy Who Isn’t a Deputy, what is this guy called in the script? – takes a visit to Courtney’s out-of-the-way farm. It’s here where Courtney hides her sons from people who she, clearly, is paranoid about coming and taking away her kids. (Anyone who would take them would turn around before reaching the end of the dirt driveway). She confronts Deputy Fife and, forgetting that she’s, you know, obsessively paranoid to the point where she ran from a supermarket while shouting “RUTABAGA!” like some kind of Braveheart-esque battle cry, invites this strange man into her house for coffee. (Because that’s totally what a mother hiding her kids from suspicious people would do).

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We soon find out why Courtney is hiding out in this dilapidated farm: her abusive ex-husband is after custody of her darling angel children. When the ex-husband, Clint, shows up back in Courtney’s life, he drops such gems as, “This isn’t over. Whore.” That is actual, genuine dialogue from a 2015 theatrical release. Clearly, actor Lea Coco thought he was in a Lifetime movie. At this point in the film, a Lifetime movie would be preferable: at least the terribleness of Lifetime original movies are broken up with commercials, each advertisement serving as a beautiful, glorious respite from the atrocities before you.

With Sinister 2, I was forced to muffle my nearly-uncontrollable laughs as I tried to convince myself that the projectionist didn’t accidentally switch over to some after-school special from the 1980s.

Sinister 2 devolved fully into parody by the time Clint arrived. He’s a character who is so hollow, empty, pathetic, and over the top that I was genuinely surprised there wasn’t a “HATE THIS GUY” arrow with big, beaming neon lights pointing down at him in every frame. Sinister 2 became a dark comedy for me as Clint flew into a rage and shoved mashed potatoes in his son’s face, not dissimilar to the iconic manner in which Cookie Monster shovels cookies into his mouth-hole.

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He’s the big, bad, testosterone-filled ex-husband that serves as nothing more than a roadblock for Deputy Dumbass to get the girl. Deputy Woody Fife has to, literally, fight for the girl because, you know, why should female characters be empowered and stand up for themselves, right? No matter: soon, the real threats arrive – the Children of the Corn! Damn, sorry. The not-cliche-at-all ghost children, who are done up in make up that looks no different than what you’d see on your average trick-or-treater.

I know Blumhouse likes to produce films on small budgets, but did the production take these kids to a local carnival and get their faces painted for free? They probably picked up the child actors while they were there, too, because I find it impossible to believe that an actual casting director selected these kids for roles in a Hollywood film.

The gang of Little Rascals-esque ghost kids are so comical, with poorly written lines that are poorly delivered in some kind of “who can look the worst by the time the credits roll” competition, that I had to pinch myself to ensure that I wasn’t having some kind of Peanuts-inspired dream where a ragtag bunch of Newsies had their souls stolen by a demon who looks like a member from the band SlipKnot.

The same, tired, lame, now-cliche ghost kids you've seen in every Blumhouse movie of the past five years.
The same, tired, lame, now-cliche ghost kids you’ve seen in every Blumhouse movie of the past five years.

Slappy from Goosebumps, the Wendy’s restaurants mascot, Ronald Weasley, Nose-Picker, and Lil’ Samara are… the villains of Sinister 2. Really? Who’s their leader – that guy from The Strangers who looked like he wore a pair of granny panties on his head?

No, that's totally Bagul. (Were you expecting a group shot of SlipKnot?)
No, that’s totally Bagul. (Were you expecting a group shot of SlipKnot?)

Whereas Sinister at least featured some cool “murder footage” – the voyeuristic super 8 footage that captured grisly murders, discovered by Ellison – the similar “home movies” in Sinister 2 are both pathetic and overdone. One home movie features a family, bound and hung upside down, above a lake. Then, abysmal looking CGI alligators pop out of the water – with a LOUD NOISE, of course – and Hungry Hungry Hippo the poor victims to death.

More footage offers a look at another family, crucified and fixed to the floors by nails, having rats placed on their stomachs before the rats are covered with tins – tins that are then subjected to heat, causing the rats to panic and borrow out the only way available to them: through the fleshy bodies of the unfortunate victims.

Sounds gnarly, huh?

I say “gnarly” because that was kind of, sort of, totally stolen from 2 Fast 2 Furious, cuz

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Sinister 2 is so bereft of creativity and originality that it had to steal from the 2003 John Singleton classic 2 Fast 2 Furious. I half expected Roman Pearce to burst into the scene with a purple Spyder. How does Deputy Bumbo deal with the supernatural happenings? Why, the Expositionary Character©, of course! The jittery, mumbling, bumbling Deputy visits the jittery, mumbling, bumbling Doctor Stomberg, who the Deputy refers to as “the new Jonas.” I promise you, that is an actual line from an actual movie. Professor Jonas, if you remember, is the Exposition Spouting Professor from Sinister, played by Vincent D’Onofrio.

“What happened to Jonas?” asks the Deputy. D’Onofrio, brilliant as he is, had the sense to avoid Sinister 2, choosing to star in Marvel/Netflix’s Daredevil and the massively-successful Jurassic World instead.

Sinister6
Why are the two “heroes” of the film goobers who act like they eat big bowls of sugar and cocaine for breakfast each morning? Beats me. At this point in the film, as Deputy Goober and Doctor Goober conversed about Bagul’s methods – something about an “aesthetic observance of violence” –  I had found myself wondering what, exactly, a Rutabaga tastes like.

The ridiculous, over the top, silly “home movies” are a far cry from the nearly unnerving, creepier home movies from Sinister. But there’s a reason Scott Derrickson has moved on to direct Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange while Sinister 2 was handed to Ciarán Foy. The film, as a whole, is so pathetically filmed and directed that it’s a wonder Sinister 2 didn’t have its premiere in the $3.99 straight-to-video bin of your nearest gas station. This is a film that takes three minutes for Courtney to give Deputy NoName her number. A set up for the Deputy to use that number later on, when he’s far away and urgently needs to reach her, right?

In a competently made movie, sure, but not here. While Deputy Bozo is off with Doctor Jitters, the Deputy learns Courtney and the kids are in danger and that they need to stay in the home. The Deputy doesn’t call her and tell her: he’s content with racing to the farm house, arriving too late, finding the family gone, and dramatically (melodramatically) shouting “Nooo!” at the sky like Darth Vader.

To be fair, maybe the Deputy has Verizon.
To be fair, maybe the Deputy has Verizon.

Meanwhile, the mother and the good son are, of course, in danger. They run from ghosts and Dylan, “the smart one,” hides from the ghost kids… under a desk. They’ve shown, many times, that they can appear, disappear, and re-appear anywhere they want. They can walk through walls because of that whole “incorporeal beings” perk that comes with being a ghost. Hiding under a tiny desk from ghosts is like hiding from Black Friday shoppers in a Walmart. Zach has turned eeeevviiiillll at this point, jealous that Dylan was selected by the ghost kids to be the one to get to be initiated into the ghost gang and be attributed with the mission of murdering his entire family and capturing it on 8 mm film.

Man, don’t you hate it when your siblings are selected for demonic missions where they get to have all the fun and slaughter your whole family? God. Hate it when that happens.

So Zach, doing what Children of the Corn do, ties up his family on crosses in a corn field and prepares to burn them alive. Deputy Gotta Call T-Mobile in the Morning races to the rescue in his car and – in a Fast and the Furious move – plows down Zach with his truck. Zach, despite being an average, normal, human boy who must weigh about sixty pounds, gets up and shakes it off like he was tapped in the head with a dodge ball.

"If you can dodge a truck, you can burn your entire family alive!"
“If you can dodge a truck, you can burn your entire family alive!”

As Deputy Donut races into action, with the accompanying “this is important” music, the film forgets one tiny, kind of important thing: it never bothered to make us care about these characters. I don’t care about the Deputy, I don’t care about the mom, I don’t care about the kids. I don’t care what happens at this point.

It’s like watching someone else play Frogger. You have no emotional investment whatsoever, and you kind of just want to see Frogger get bopped by a Mercedes so he learns to use the proper designated crosswalks.

One of the most important aspects of a horror film is the sympathy and empathy that gets the audience involved and invested in the characters. If we don’t care about them, we don’t care if they survive. And if we’re actively rooting for the demon/monster/villain/psycho/creature to win, your movie failed. Sinister 2 wants you to care – it thinks you care – because it portrays Bagul and his cache of ghost kids as the bad guys, and it’s clear that the Deputy, Courtney, and Dylan trying to survive is what we should actively be rooting for. Except the movie never provides any reasons other than, “he’s nice, she’s a mom, and he’s a kid, you want to see them live.” I need more than that to care.

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Considering Dudley Do Right is straight out of Mayberry, Courtney is a bad mom, and Dylan is an insufferable brat, the film needed to go out of its way – even if only once – to spend the time on a much needed, very necessary scene that would have gotten me emotionally invested in these characters. The scene never came, and I was never properly motivated to want to see these characters survive to the end of the movie.

After a truly abysmal chase scene – 90% of which is portrayed through Zach’s handheld, 8 mm camera, thus treating the audience to an unnecessary shaky-cam scene where the ‘action’ is incomprehensible and gives the impression that you’re tumbling around in the drying cycle at a laundromat  – the Deputy confronts the murderous Zach.

The Deputy is unable to subdue or even disarm the 60 pound Zach, further adding to the Deputy’s incompetence and overall pathetic character. We’re supposed to root for this guy? Chief Brody in Jaws took on a shark in the middle of the ocean! Ripley in Aliens took on aliens! Laurie Strode went toe-to-toe with Michael Myers, to the extent of her ability. And Deputy Do-Nothing can’t go all Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out on this demon spawn? Yeah. There’s a protagonist the audience can rally behind.

Shove some mashed potatoes in his face, Deputy! Anything!
Shove some mashed potatoes in his face, Deputy! Anything!


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ends exactly as it began: with cheap, lazy, apathetic “jump scares” that are telegraphed a mile away. Not only is Sinister 2 not scary, it’s unintentionally funny to the point of parody. The scariest thing about the film is that this uninspired piece of garbage made it into the “development” stage of the filmmaking process. The paragon of the uninspired, lazy, “remake the original and hope the audience won’t notice” sequel, Sinister 2 repeats the “Bagul pops into frame to end the film” jump scare – aka, the same exact way the first film ended.

The ending shot of Sinister. And Sinister 2. And because life is terrible, the ending shot of Sinister 3, Sinister 4, Sinister 5, Sinister 6, and Sinister: Reborn.
The ending shot of Sinister. And Sinister 2. And because life is terrible, the ending shot of Sinister 3, Sinister 4, Sinister 5, Sinister 6, and Sinister: Reborn.

Sinister 2 is the kind of riff-raff that usually washes ashore the liter-ridden beach that is August at the movies. It’s a bad sequel, a bad movie, and – its worst offense – a completely ineffective horror movie. The only thing “scary” about Sinister 2 is that it’s probably not the last we’ve seen of Bagul – and this franchise.

Sinister 2: 0/5.

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I’m all about movie news, movie reviews, and writing about the movies I see. You can follow me on Twitter at @SinCityCam.

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