Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on August 20, 2015, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.
Continuing our in-depth interview with Ciarán Foy about SINISTER 2 (see part one here)… We left off on a discussion of the real animals used in some of the “kill films” seen in the sequel, and pick up with an unfortunate encounter the director had with one particular live specimen.
In Sinister 2, James Ransone returns from the original as Ex-Deputy So & So, trying to protect abused wife Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossaman) and her twin sons Dylan and Zach (Robert and Dartanian Sloan) from both her nasty husband and the influence of the demon Bughuul. His spectral young followers have begun subjecting Dylan to the murder movies in which they slaughter their families, to influence the boy to follow suit. Scripted by original writer/director Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill, Sinister 2 was a natural progression for Foy from his debut feature Citadel, which also featured good and bad kids, though it was a lower life form that caused his biggest problem on set…
You worked with children and animals on this movie, which filmmakers are traditionally warned against. Were those the biggest challenges of making the movie?
Yes! At one point, I got bitten by a brown recluse spider on location. It was funny; it actually happened on a day when we were working with a stunt spider. That was a wolf spider, but it wasn’t one of those that got me, it was a brown recluse that bit me in the cornfield, and I ended up in hospital and almost lost my leg.
But apart from that, yeah, children and animals are always a challenge, kids more from the point of view of just the hours they can work. People say, “Never work with children” in the sense that you can’t control them or you can’t get a performance you want or whatever, and that might be the case with certain kids, but you can eliminate a lot of that in the casting process, and every one of our young actors was just amazing. I have nothing but good things to say about them. But from the point of view of the schedule, it can be hard to make that work, because you can only shoot with them for so many hours a day, and sometimes you’ve finished half a scene and you have to jump onto another one with adults, so you’re kind of hopscotching around. That can be difficult, because when you make a move like that to a new location or a new set, it takes time.
And then animals, absolutely; they do their own thing, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And on a movie like this, where you only have 30 days to shoot it, patience is something that can be in short supply. So yeah, the cliché about working with children and animals is sometimes true.
Did the fact that the two young protagonists are twins make it more difficult to find the right actors?
Yeah; the script called for twins, and I said to Scott and Cargill that it’s really hard to just find one good child actor, you know? On Citadel, it took a long time to find the right balance—someone who could give a good performance but also felt real and like a regular kid. So many of them come in with headshots, and their parents have wanted them to be actors from the time they were born, and there’s an overly theatrical quality to a lot of them. I didn’t want that for this movie; I wanted boys who felt natural. I was talking about movies like Stand By Me and Mud, where I felt the kids all had a real quality to them. So I said to the guys, “Would you consider changing them to just being brothers, if we can’t find twins?” They understood and said, “Yeah, let’s look for both; let’s just look for good kid actors, and let’s look for twins as well.”
We were incredibly lucky, because Terri Taylor, the casting director, found the Sloan brothers [who are two of three fraternal triplets] the first week. They hadn’t acted in much, but they played hockey, and that was something I looked for on Citadel; I asked the casting people to go to places other than grammar schools, to look at martial arts schools and football teams and such, to find interesting faces but also kids who had a confidence and a sense of discipline because they played sports, and weren’t necessarily going to be over-theatrical. So Terri started searching in different places, and these boys played hockey, and they had that confidence and an ability to act that felt natural. I fully expected that we’d just go with brothers, but we lucked out with those two.
Even though children play central roles as both villains and victims, you still made Sinister 2 a fairly hard R…
Yes, and that’s sort of exciting; it has been a long time since I can remember an R-rated movie with kids in the central roles, and it’ll be interesting to see how people react to it. That was one thing I enjoyed about this whole process; having just made one very low-budget indie in the past and then coming over to the States to make Sinister 2, I’d never experienced things like test screenings and stuff like that, and I found that incredibly interesting and helpful—experiencing the movie with an audience. The great sense of relief and surprise and excitement for me was how much they enjoyed it, and seeing that the jumps and the laughs and the reactions to the horror were all in the right places, and that people really cared about the characters. To me, that is paramount for any horror film; you need to be invested in the characters, and then the horror and the jeopardy and the drama will be exponentially more impactful.
Do you have any future horror projects in the works, with Blumhouse or other producers?
Yeah, I’m writing something at the moment called The Shee that Blumhouse will produce. And I’ve been asked to pitch on a number of other horror projects; I can’t say which at the moment. It’s been all about finding what makes sense to do next, because the one thing I’ve realized is that whatever you think it is you want to do two films down the line is never the movie you wind up doing. Each film changes you, and certainly after making Sinister 2, one of the projects I had in mind for doing next, I’d sort of touched upon some of the elements of that in this movie, so I was like, “Well, I don’t think I want to do that now.”