I never wanted a sequel to 2012’s Sinister – it never really warranted one either, I found. There was maybe a couple more things I could imagine illuminating in its mythology, but it never felt like something I needed to find out. Sinister 2 sounds great behind-the-scenes, though. Maintaining the writing team of Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill ideally leaves the series in a place where it will iterate as opposed to repeat. Keeping James Ransone on board as the one character that has a personal connection to the events of the first film is smart, if also a little bit of a stretch. Most importantly, a director who has proven himself with paranoid characters (Ciaran Foy) gets to tackle an already established franchise and put his stamp on it. Sinister 2 has all these hopes attached to it, but still manages to feel slight, and at times, illogical.
Sinister 2 already adds to the mythology by having twin children and their mother inhabit a house of a recently murdered family. Of course, this family is suspected by Ex-Deputy So & So, now a private investigator (Ransone, who apparently does not get a name in the sequel), to be the most recent ritual by Bughuul – the boogeyman. When the investigator arrives to the house so he can burn it down and stop the chain of rituals, he is alarmed to find the family already living in the house. So now he has to keep them in that house until he can find a way to stop Bughuul from killing the family.
There are elements which seem to be building into Ciaran Foy’s style since Citadel and his short films. Folklore is a large part of Sinister 2‘s inspiration for Bughuul, and a huge component of Foy’s previous work. With Citadel specifically, children were seen as menacing, which holds true in the form of Bughuul’s children and the comically violent Zach (Dartanian Sloan). Foy seemed perfect for the Sinister series though because of his ability to deal with paranoia in characters. Where Ellison (Ethan Hawke) from the first film descended into madness, we join our ex-deputy as he starts dealing with Bughuul knowing that he’s trying to stop him. It’s a demon that doesn’t just manifest in his rituals, but also when being attacked.
Elements such as that are what make Sinister 2 a slightly more interesting film than I could have ever imagined it would be. Unfortunately, it defies its own logic on multiple occasions just for the sake of having an ending. The idea of Bughuul needing to corrupt the innocent children, makes his targeting of Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) perfect as the weaker, more emotionally fragile of the twins. There is plenty of subtlety in the film, specifically with the way twins are incorporated, but it never really feels like it amounts to anything. Everything feels minor in scale and the ending of the film tries to be subtle and ambiguous in a way that hurts the movie more.
Ransone is delightful though as the awkward deputy who is also a really stand up guy. It pains me that he doesn’t even get a name because his character is interesting enough and though he does maintain a heroic-vibe the entire time, he isn’t completely without flaws. Shoehorned character moments hinder him from more, and being surrounded by comically evil characters makes it harder to appreciate his humility.
Sinister 2 was never going to be as good as the first film, but that didn’t mean it had to be the disappointing fare that it is. The way it uses a case study to build upon its mythology is clever, but it also feels like a far-fetched possibility that a family would have twins, with one of them being extremely eager to be violent. Characters feel like jokes often, and even Ransone who was kind of a joke in the first film is only given enough to be slightly elevated above that.
The film could be so much more, but it’s a bit too preoccupied with its twin angle to do anything interesting. Instead, you get lame kids who aren’t scary trying to be scary, while Bughuul shows up to just be a jump scare every now and then. The atmosphere isn’t there, and the film becomes illogical by its conclusion. Sinister 2 is what happens when you don’t have much more to add to something – you end up over-complicating it. In a horror film, that just detracts from the horror.