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Q&A: Director Ciarán Foy on the Kids and Kill Films of “SINISTER 2,” Part One

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The super-creepy horror hit SINISTER was a hard act to follow, but Irish director Ciarán Foy was the right man for the job. Having scored a critical and festival hit with the hoodie horror film CITADEL a couple of years ago, he tackled SINISTER 2, and gave Fango a lengthy interview about the sequel.

Opening this Friday from Gramercy Pictures, SINISTER 2 brings back the original’s James Ransone as now Ex-Deputy So & So, who’s on a quest to stop the chain of killings perpetrated by children under the sway of the demon Bughuul. Attempting to destroy houses infected with the lingering evil of past murders, he comes across a rural dwelling that is unexpectedly occupied: by an abused wife named Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) who has fled there with her twin sons (Dartanian and Robert Sloan). Unfortunately, Bughuul has also found them, and his ghostly little followers have begun indoctrinating one of the boys by showing him their own horrific films documenting the slayings of their families. This time, the little killers use 16mm film instead of Super-8, while Foy reveals that he got the gig thanks to modern social media…

FANGORIA: Jason Blum told us (in Fango #343, on sale soon) that it was original director/co-writer Scott Derrickson who sought you out and recommended you to direct the sequel.

CIARÁN FOY: Yeah, and it was bizarre, because I got the job through Twitter! I was back home in January 2014, looking over Twitter, and I follow Scott there, and he tweeted that he’d seen CITADEL on Netflix and was kind of gushing about it and saying everyone should check it out. I replied to that tweet just to say thanks, and then he started following me and asked a bunch of questions about CITADEL. And in the middle of that, he said, “You’d be the perfect director for SINISTER 2. Would you like to read the script?”

I could see what he saw in CITADEL, in terms of my having directed kids before, since this movie would live or die, basically, based on the performances of the young actors. If they didn’t feel real, and it didn’t feel tangible and gritty, the movie just wouldn’t work. I was totally surprised and excited, so I came over to the States last July and began the process of making the movie.

FANG: SINISTER 2 has a lot of dramatic elements, in addition to the scary stuff…

FOY: Yeah, what happens in this rural environment is, you have the story of the adult world, with So-and-So and Courtney and the relationship between them and Courtney’s husband, who’s trying to find her, and then you’ve got the story of the kids, which allows us to see what happens behind the scenes that the first SINISTER didn’t show. It’s about the journey or the kind of transformation that takes place where one of the boys goes from being a regular kid to wanting to create one of these kill films for Bughuul.

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FANG: CITADEL also had children as central characters, both innocent and evil; are you especially interested in that kind of horror story, or is that just how your first two features happened to land?

FOY: I think it’s more the latter, though I do enjoy working with kids. I made a short before CITADEL called THE FAIRIES OF BLACKHEATH WOODS, which had a 10-year-old girl in the central performance, and I think I work well with them. And I can see how in watching CITADEL, Scott saw my aesthetic and also thought, “OK, here’s someone who can work with kids, and that’s paramount to this movie working.” But it’s certainly not something I intend to keep on doing for any one reason; it’s just how things worked out. I’m a big genre fan, and I’d like to continue making genre movies, not necessarily just about kids.

FANG: The advance trailers and other marketing suggested there’s a bit of a CHILDREN OF THE CORN vibe to SINISTER 2. Was that film an influence for you?

FOY: No, not really. It’s funny—there are certain images in the trailer that are similar, and there’s a setpiece toward the end that takes place in a cornfield, but then, the movie is mostly set in rural Illinois, which is just farmland and flatlands. There’s nothing to be particularly read into the use of the corn or anything like that; it’s just the juxtaposition of kids with the cornfield. I love those movies, but Scott and [co-writer C. Robert] Cargill and myself didn’t intend to just do an unofficial remake of CHILDREN OF THE CORN.

FANG: How much input did Derrickson and Cargill have during production, having created SINISTER and scripted the sequel? Did they give you free rein to adapt their screenplay and ideas as you saw fit?

FOY: Yeah, to a certain degree. As is the case with any director, you’ve got to make it your own, and when I had suggestions for things, the guys were always very generous; if they thought it was a good idea, they said, “Yeah, hell, let’s put it in the script.” I stayed close to them the whole time making the movie, but when it came to the actual shoot, that’s when I had to forge my relationships with the actors and stuff like that, and allow a scene to breathe and become its own thing.

There were a few ad-libbed moments; I like to allow the actors to do that, even if I’m not going to use it. I do this thing where I ad-lib the head or tail of a scene, in the sense that the main portion will be what’s on the page, and it’s just to get the actors in the right zone, and explore what could be happening right before the scene begins on the page. Sometimes you’ll find gold in those moments, and there are a couple we kept in the movie. They’re mostly comedic bits that James Ransone came up with, and they’re so natural; they don’t feel forced or written for a laugh.

At the end of the day, it was just about trying to get the balance right in post between the same dread-inducing atmosphere and scares the first movie had, and what people expect from a SINISTER film, and these moments of levity and drama. From that point of view, Scott was very supportive; he was just like, “You’re the director, it’s your movie.” I believe we achieved something that feels like a SINISTER film, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a regurgitation of the first movie.

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FANG: So even though the film is set in the present day, the kids haven’t upgraded to video for their kill movies?

FOY: No, it’s all film; I guess Bughuul is old-school [laughs]. We shot them on 16mm, first of all because it’s getting harder and harder to find places that will process Super-8, and also, within the very tight schedule—we only had 30 days to make this movie—we had to insure that if we were spending the time shooting these kill films, they were going to work out right, and it wouldn’t be a case where the film snapped in the magazine or something. This time around, they’ve got a lot of heavy elements, and there are creatures and stuff in some of them. We filmed them on 16mm and then degrading them further in the post process, adding the scratches and light leaks and that kind of thing. We wanted them to have that great texture you can only get on film.

FANG: What other kinds of creatures are you talking about?

FOY: Well, what I meant was, some of the films involve methods of death by animals. You get glimpses of that in the red-band trailer. We had real rats and other creatures on set, and that was its own form of chaos, but I believe they’ve really lent a cool but horrible quality to some of the kill methods.

TO BE CONTINUED

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About the author
Michael Gingold

Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.

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