An early warning siren for readers: I typically like to start reviews with a quote from the film I’m reviewing. I tend to listen for lines that strike me as cool, or funny, or thematically apt. Absolutely nothing leapt out at my eager ears while watching Sinister 2. All of it rolled over me like a tsunami of mumbled banalities at best.
I don’t like writing negative reviews, but sometimes, it has to be done.
I liked Sinister well enough. It was an enjoyably grim affair anchored by the thankless Ethan Hawke, and the snuff videos were chilling. It was silly in an airport paperback horror kind of way, but it was effective, elevated by performances, music, and some nice photography. Unfortunately, the big baddy Baguul didn’t register much – he’s inscrutable, but in an underwritten way rather than a Michael Meyers frightening-and-compelling-embodiment-of-evil way; his threadbare suit and 80s black metal corpse paint look just isn’t scary and makes little visual impression. He’s like a guy who tried out for Slipknot but didn’t make the cut. Just look at that poster up there. Tell me that doesn’t look like a Nu-metal album cover.
Oddly, where Sinister looked pretty polished, Sinister 2 looks a bit more TV-like, and I mean that in the cheap way, not the cinematic Breaking Bad or gritty The Wire kind of way. James Ransone returns from the first film to reprise his role as an unnamed deputy – he’s now an ex-deputy in this one. Since losing his job, he’s been travelling around, trying to stop the Baguul murders and child corruption. He finds his way to Courtney (Shannon Sossamon) and her sons Dylan (Robert Daniel) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan), who are set to be the next victims, or so he believes.
While everyone is clearly trying here, all the character depth is either absent or feels false. James Ransone seems like a fine actor, but he just doesn’t have much to work with, and his character just doesn’t have much to do. The romance feels silly and false, and while he was a bit of levity in all the deadly seriousness of Sinister, his Dewey-from-Scream thing just makes him seem kind of stupid in a lead role. What kept viewers invested in Sinister beyond the effective kill videos was watching Ethan Hawke’s Ellison Oswalt being drawn into a mystery. There is no mystery in Sinister 2 – we already know Baguul is evil, and he uses videos and music to corrupt kids…err…somehow. Sounds a bit like an 80s after school special about the evils of heavy metal when it’s written out, doesn’t it? We don’t even learn anything new about Baguul in the sequel despite being forced to listen to a character that exists solely as an info dump. All that’s left are ineffectual jump scares, an unscary villain, and a really lame, obvious twist.
I’m not sure where Sinister 2 went wrong, but it did go very wrong. If I had to point a finger anywhere, it would be at the script. There are times that Sinister 2 flirts with greater meaning. It hints at exploring the legacy of domestic abuse and the loneliness and alienation that can drive damaged people to violence, but the script is about three rewrites away from any of it working. It’s not scary, the effects are pretty bad, there is no mystery, and there are more than a few moments that edge into laugh out loud ludicrous (a kid getting absolutely plowed by a speeding truck and getting up seconds later, no worse for wear T800-style was particularly funny-bad).
Sure, the kill soundtrack is great, but if I were you, I wouldn’t waste my time on this one. Spin up Boards of Canada’s Geogaddi or some Sun 0))), put out the lights, light some candles, and crack a Lovecraft collection if you really want a spooky-soundtracked night of frights. The only thing shocking about Sinister 2 is how forgettable it is.