In Defense of Sinister 2 (Ciarán Foy, 2015)

by Jason Suzuki

Sinister 2 has almost unanimously gotten flack for not being a repeat of the first film. Audiences seem to want a recreation instead of an evolution of the story and myths of Sinister. This is sad because the second film in the series has a lot to like about it, irregardless if it’s as good as the first film.

The Jump Scare:
On the use of jump scares in the film: if there ever was a horror movie legend that deserves to be able to utilize this particular scare tactic it should be Bughuul, who is a character linked with the medium of film itself. Freddy had dreams, Jason has camp Crystal Lake and later Manhattan and space, and Bughuul has film and all other artistic forms for the “aesthetic observance of violence” (an amazing line from the film). By treating the Sinister films as something else that Bughuul can infect gives it a great and not too obvious meta-layer and just makes sense, something that has been severely missing in other films with jump scares.

The Fun with Formula:
The movie also shows it can have fun with formula. When Ex-Deputy So & So gets a call from Dr. Stomberg (Tate Ellington) he asks if he is the new Professor Jonas (D’onofrio from the first film). So basically he is asking, “are you the character whose going to serve this function in this film that that other character did in the first film?” And what’s great is that the film doesn’t dwell on any winking nods to cliche or subversions of them, they just happen naturally.

The Subtext:
Sinister 2 shouldn’t be a repeat of the first film, the 2 in the title meaning continuation of ideas. We see another family unit targeted but this time it’s from the point of view of the kids, and what sort of family turmoil leaves them susceptible to Bughuul and his previous victims. This is what eventually gives those home movies and added punch. At first I felt they were too, lacking the simple yet unnerving feel of the set of tapes from the first film. But when we see Zach finally making a tape for Bughuul after his brother proves to be too good-natured to continue the path, we know that there is more going on than a father teaching his son how to swing a bat while the mother sits nearby in this clean, conflict free portrait of a family. It makes you wonder what else was going on when the camera was off in Bughuul’s kids’ home videos: fishing, remodeling the kitchen, etc. All easy go to situations for family bonding just as the one Zach captures, but what’s the most haunting is that we know these families hide some dark secret of dysfunction, or else Bughuul wouldn’t have targeted the kids. It’s only in this film where I feel they have given the character the subtext that makes for a great horror series villain, linking him with broken families and the angst children can feel towards their parents.

Sossamon’s Yell:
So sure Shannyn Sossamon’s character isn’t as interesting as the self-centered dad Ethan Hawke was in the first film, but she gives one of the most realistic depictions of anger I have ever seen in a film, in what is probably Sinister 2’s most truly horrific scene.

And the last reason why to give Sinister 2 another chance: it was co-written by one of the hosts of a great podcast called Junkfood Cinema. When you listen to C. Robert Cargill talk about film, you realize there’s no way he would knowingly churn out something that didn’t have a good deal of thought put into it.

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.