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“SINISTER 2” (Film Review)

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For those going into SINISTER 2 believing it to be a retread of the first SINISTER, this writer has some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is that SINISTER 2 is not much like the original SINISTER in most ways, even if the strong family-driven drama and graphic kill films carry over into the Ciaran Foy-directed sequel. The good news is, however, that SINISTER 2 is different in many great ways, and the many ways that the film spins the mythology of Bughuul and his potential victims offers something much more unique to fright fans while still satisfying SINISTER die-hards.

In perhaps the best conceptual choice of them all, the wayward deputy from the original SINISTER is somewhat front-and-center in this sequel as he devotes his life to preventing the spread of Bughuul’s demonic presence, ultimately winding up face-to-face with a family who is already in the midst of his influence. Of course, there’s many other moving parts in SINISTER 2 that we merely saw hinted at in the original film, including how Bughuul recruits (and ultimately manipulates) children as well as Bughuul’s powers outside of main rituals. But the film cleverly avoids repeating the same tale as SINISTER by keeping the perspective fresh and subverting every expectation, offering an atmospheric and quite unsettling film as a whole.

SINISTER 2 isn’t without its faults, as the use of CGI in some of the kill films is startling for its own reasons, the storyline with Dr. Stomberg is almost unnecessary without its intended payoff and the current abrupt ending ties things up at a jarring, disappointing way. Hell, one of the most unsettling kill films (involving dentistry) is featured almost entirely in the background of a scene, while perhaps the most disturbing is one presented in a calm, almost static way with nearly no bloodshed whatsoever. But SINISTER 2 is admirable and confident in its many narrative and directorial decisions, whether it be presenting a hero who is neurotic and literally chasing shadows or playing narrative poker with the information we learn through the haunting of the twin children. And perhaps the scariest aspect of all is just how the film portrays the ghost children: rather than portrayed as victims, they are complicit and proud of their massacres, with the same feeling building inside everyone they drive to the same fate.

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Another refreshing aspect of SINISTER 2 is the fact that director Ciaran Foy never really attempts to mimic the direction of Scott Derrickson (who returns as a co-writer and producer on the film with his collaborator C. Robert Cargill), instead offering his own unique vision. If anything, the connective tissue between the direction of SINISTER 2 and SINISTER is the use of patience and suspense, allowing most of the macabre moments to pay off organically by sticking with the slow moments. Luckily, Derrickson and Cargill’s script gives Foy many chances to also go for intense terror as well, and the climactic stand-off between the Deputy and surviving family members and the Bughuul-influenced children stands as one of the most horrific highlights of the film, especially as the perspective flips from the possessed to the preyed upon. And special credit should also be given to tomandandy, whose work (inspired by Christopher Young’s score in the first film) is much more frenetic and pulsating this time around.

SINISTER 2 also has the benefit of having an outright excellent cast at its disposal, which help to elevate the drama (both genre-oriented and otherwise) near the heights of the first film. Of course, James Ransone handles the lead role with a surprising sense of vulnerability while never quite losing the anxious charm and resourcefulness that aided his performance in the first SINISTER film. Shannyn Sossamon also brings a sense of passion and desperation to her role as the family matriarch, whose real world problems believably outshine the darkness under her very roof. And the child performances, particularly from Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan and Lucas Jade Zuumann, range between tragic and terrifying in ways often unseen from performers of that age in horror.

Overall, SINISTER 2 is not only a worthy follow-up to SINISTER, itself a chilling contemporary genre gem, but it also works as stand-alone scare fare. The fact that SINISTER 2 is not a lifeless and boring replay of the original film, and rather is incredibly deliberate about what to reprise and how far. The only real gut-punch of the piece is the fact that the film doesn’t quite go to the tragic lengths of SINISTER’s shocking ending, which played up Bughuul’s truly inescapable plan and instead goes out with a whimper. But a whimper tacked onto an otherwise solid fright flick is still a breathe of fresh air compared to something common or unambitious, both things SINISTER 2 is certainly not.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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