Jared McMillan // Film Critic
I never go into a sequel thinking it’s going to be better than the original; let’s face it, it’s a rarity. The fact is that I double down on this thinking when I see a horror sequel. More often than not, these sequels are meant to a) expand on the cinematic universe through either hero or villain, and b) see if it can be made into a franchise commodity. When SINISTER came on the scene in 2012, I saw it as something with promise. It had a new take on the Boogeyman villain, and pushed the “creepy kid” horror trope to dark places by making the children actual killers. Also, it incorporated the use of Super 8 film as the portal to which Mr. Boogie, or Bughuul, could corrupt his prey, giving the film subtext with an angle of the media corrupting our children. Could SINISTER 2 maintain the intrigue of its predecessor, especially when focusing on an entirely new family unit? Well, much like how the movie mixes its narratives, my emotions were mixed after seeing it. And I was slightly disappointed at a missed marketing opportunity of SINISTER 2: ELECTRIC BUGHUULOO, but I digress.
They bridge the gap from the first movie by re-introducing the audience to Deputy So-and-So (James Ransone) in a confessional booth, talking to a priest about the Oswalt murders. The priest tells him that “you can’t stop evil, you can only protect yourself from it”, setting the film’s ominous tone. Meanwhile, in rural Indiana, we meet Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two sons, Dylan (Robert Daniel) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan) trying to evade a private investigator. The audience has seen Dylan before in the film’s opening sequence, having nightmares about a murder in the cornfield and then encountering Bughuul (Nicholas King). He starts seeing strange things no one else can, and is shown Super 8 films of previous murders by the children who committed them. The lead child, Milo (Lucas Jade Zumann), keeps telling Dylan that the nightmares will stop if he just watches the films, setting up the inevitable corruption that Bughuul needs for his sacrifice.
Writers Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, who both penned the first SINISTER, make great decisions in continuing with the mythology created in the initial movie, without repeating plot points. First, they show the evil of Bughuul from the point-of-view of Dylan rather than the parent. This allows for the story to dive into the method and procedure without having a character verbally spill it out for the audience. Secondly, by adding Deputy So-and-So, they have the other end of the good-vs-evil spectrum. The audience becomes aware that he is now trying to chase down Bughuul, which slowly eases him into becoming the franchise’s main protagonist; he even comes face-to-face with the demon on a couple of occasions to solidify this burgeoning conflict.
However, piecing this growing cinematic universe together is where the film falls flat, as is usually the occasion with sequels. There still is no given reason as to how Bughuul chooses the children. I feel that it’s something to do with children that have terrible relationships with their fathers, but that wasn’t the case in the first movie. Also, they make Deputy and Courtney abrupt love interests, which caused my eyes to abruptly roll. It’s a betrayal to speed up how actual interaction works and causes a disruption in the plot’s flow. Then, there were several instances of bringing about character information and forming unnecessary shifts (i.e. the estranged father) in the narrative. It’s clear they were on shaky ground on how to get to the third act, and just gave in to create filler; the film gets confused, making the audience confused.
That being said, I liked what they were trying to do around their mistakes. James Ransone brings a lot of likability to Deputy as he comes into his own as the hero. In only his second feature, director Ciaran Foy was sure in the shots within the narrative, using focal shifts instead of just constant shot/reverse shots to disrupt the visual flow of the movie. Also, there is further depth into the subtext of “media corruption” that was started in the first movie. There’s a reason Bughuul looks like a mascot for a Slipknot/Cradle of Filth supergroup, and communicates through snuff films and creepy music. He is a metaphor of those that think the reason children commit crimes is because of what movies they watch, or what music they listen to when their parents aren’t around. The mythology maintains some aspects shown in the first film, like the green liquid that sedates the family, a child having nightmares at first, and the main parental figure being an artist of some sort (Ellison was an author, Courtney makes furniture). Their expansion is moving into a religious take, however, as the snuff films now incorporate some sort of Christian symbol. This could get dicey, as it can completely shift the narrative tone in the next franchise installment. However, I think SINISTER 2 is something of a bridge for the Deputy vs. Bughuul conflict, and as long as they keep with this point, I will still be invested in the SINISTER films.
SINISTER 2 is in theaters nationwide.