Director: Ciaran Foy

Starring: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan

Studio: Blumhouse Productions

Rated: R

Running Time: 1 Hr, 37 Min

The horror genre has become a victim of itself in recent years, forfeiting decent storytelling for cheap thrills and abandoning effort and clever direction for pedestrian special effects. It used to be the one genre that was innovative as it constantly looked for new ways to scare and disturb audiences. But recently it has become a non-stop series of low budget, short-sighted efforts. That’s why when the original Sinister was released in 2012, it was a breath of fresh air, offering a taste of originality and creative film making. That’s what makes suffering through the sequel more difficult. The Sinister franchise had so much promise following the first film but Sinister 2 is little more then a textbook lesson on how to ruin a once promising property.

Deputy So and So (James Ransone) returns from the original, though he’s no longer wearing a badge as a result of helping author Ellison Oswald in the first Sinister (played by Ethan Hawke). He’s a private investigator who spends his spare time tracking down and destroying houses that have hosted sacrafices to the demonic, child corrupting Bughuull. But life becomes complicated when he stumbles across Courtenay Cay (Shanon Sossymon) hiding from her abusive (but very well connected) husband with her two young sons Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zack (Dartanian Sloan) in one of the houses on his list. By the time So and So discovers them, Bughuul already has his murderous hooks in the boys and the race isn’t only against Bughuul but also against Courtenay’s monster of a husband.

Sinister 2 fails on two primary levels. The first and most frustrating is its characters. When your demonic villain, who is mentioned only in hushed whispers and seen only in the shadowed background of crime scene photos and at the very edge of your trembling vision is the most developed character in your movie, you have a problem. One failing a lot of super hero movies have is that the villain isn’t the true equal of the protaganist, diluting the integrity of the hero. Sinister 2 is the exact opposite. For all his good intentions and mustered courage, Deputy So and So is a bumbling, uncertain clod. He would be the comic relief or fill a supporting role in most any other movie and that’s not necessarily bad if there was some sort of character development; a quest that moved him from victim-in-waiting to a true rival for a demonic entity that has preyed on the human race across countless cultures for thousands of years. It’s hard to be afraid of Bughuul (who looks like a refugee from Slipknot) when he’s taken down by a guy you’re expecting to get stuffed in his locker at any moment. Sinister 2 also had the opportunity to make Courtenay, the single mother of the two boys in question, a legitimate heroine, a mother determined to protect her sons from any evil the world hurls at them (their abusive father among them). But instead it settles for the tiresome, lazy damsel in distress device, and by the third act she’s little more then a bundle of high pitched screams running aimlessly from room to room and scene to scene.

Sinister ‘s second failing is its story and direction. This movie had so much potential that it deliberately wastes for age old and obsolete horror tropes (the scared anthropologist, the obligatory priest, the main characters doing really stupid things etc.). It flirts with revealing more of Bughuul’s history but basically just reminds us of things we learned in the first film. It could have offered one or two nuggets of new info to keep the mythology fresh and help the film’s protagonists but instead it rehashes plot leftovers from the original film. There’s a good story to be told here, but it seems like the film wasn’t really interested in telling it. Any of it. Ciaran Foy fails to fill the shoes of Scott Derrickson, who did an efficient job directing the first Sinister, subtly winding up the tension with strategic scenes and the absence of music while Foy relies too heavily on standard and non effective jump scares. The movie spends half it’s time showing off new super 8 films of the mass murders done in Bughuul’s name, and while these films were used as a device to motivate the plot in the original Sinister, they’re used as actual content here. It’s like the film makers are shouting “we really don’t have a story but look over here where there’s lots of gratuitous and graphic violence!” If the film makers were truly determined to make a quality follow up to Sinister, they would have been better off making something for the small screen where they could have taken their time to let the story grow and mature and slowly reveal a complex mythos. But as it stands, Sinister 2 comes off like a bad torture porn film obsessed with showing off different ways to commit ritual mass murder.

By Shayne Kempton