Scott Derrickson really hit the sweet spot in terms of showing Bughuul enough but not too much in the original Sinister. When the sequel was announced, a major concern was that the thought process might be that in order to make the film scarier you need to show him more and unload a detailed mythology. But, thankfully, that’s not what happens here. Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill have the pieces to make an equally effective follow-up as far as the lore goes, but the narrative just isn’t focused enough to make the most of them.
In the sequel, Deputy So & So (James Ransone) is an ex-deputy. He lost his job on the force so now he’s working as a private investigator, dedicating the large majority of his time to finding Bughuul’s next target and destroying it before a new family can move in. Trouble is, this time he’s too late. Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twin sons Dylan and Zach (Robert and Dartanian Sloan) have already settled into the rural home that’s next on Bughuul’s list.
Derrickson and Cargill found a pretty ingenious way to expand the mythology. Whereas the first Sinister shows what Bughuul is capable of via an adult (Ethan Hawke), this time around you see how the evil entity digs his claws in through the children, Dylan and Zach. It’s an absolutely brilliant approach because it feels fresh, but it also adds to the lore and challenges you to reconsider what went down in the first film.
The problem is that’s not the only perspective in the film. In addition to navigating the scenario with Dylan and Zach, you’re also following So & So’s detective work. What he discovers does introduce curious new layers to the situation (one thing in particular that could be well worth exploring in a future installment), but his personal arc just isn’t as interesting as what the kids are going through, and it doesn’t feel especially necessary either. Yes, you need So & So so that Sinister 2 isn’t just the same story but with a new house and unsuspecting family, but this still should have been Dylan and Zach’s movie.
Without giving away too much, Bughuul and his children are essentially trying to bring them over to the dark side by showing them kill films. It could have been interesting to watch Bughuul corrupt them and see how it changes their relationship with one another, but it isn’t nearly as effective as it could have been because the movie also has to address the So & So storyline and the situation between Courtney and her estranged husband Clint (Lea Coco).
When So & So isn’t looking for clues and new information about Bughuul, he’s busy flirting with Courtney, a romance that feels forced and unnecessary. Another dispensable and excessive complication is the predicament between Courtney and Clint. Clint is an extremely abusive guy, but because he’s got a big bank account and some serious connections, Courtney’s the one who’s at risk of losing the kids, so she’s trying to hide from him. But of course, that doesn’t last long and when we get to see Clint in action on screen, boy is he over the top. I don’t care how much pull someone has; it’s a wonder no one’s ever arrested him. Even worse, his antics don’t really add much to the movie. Perhaps Clint’s behavior brings Courtney and So & So together, but that’s a dead-end romance, and maybe Clint’s behavior also speaks to the kind of people that Dylan and Zach are becoming, but that’s something that could have been addressed merely by stating that they have an abusive father. Clint does spark a necessary plot progression at the tail end of the film, but there had to have been a more creative way to make that certain something happen.
As for the kill films, Derrickson, Cargill and director Ciarán Foy take them to whole new level. They’ve still got the same eerie, homemade vibe, but the murders are far more elaborate this time. On the one hand, as sick as it sounds, the inventiveness of the kill films are wildly entertaining, but on the other, the weak characters and narrative make them tough to enjoy. As a big fan of the original film, I had loads of fun considering the new perspective and how it enhances the mythology, but at the same time, it also feels wrong to have enjoyed any of it. I’m all for creative and brutal kill scenes, but you need to earn them in the context of the story and Sinister 2 never quite gets there.