In the summer of 2014 I traveled to a soundstage sixty miles outside of Chicago to visit the set of Sinister 2. Having been a fan of the first film, especially the striking imagery and kills layered in by director and co-writer Scott Derrickson, I was curious to see how this return to the mythology of Bughuul was shaping up. The decision to put Citadel helmer Ciarán Foy in the drivers seat for this installment had also piqued my interest.
While there I, along with a few other journalists, had the chance to sit down with Derrickson, Foy and stars James Ransone and Shannyn Sossamon to discuss the film. We talked about the challenges of scripting a sequel that lives up to the original, the mythology of Bughuul, Sossamon and Ransone’s chracters, and the decision to pass the directorial baton to Foy.
SCOTT DERRICKSON: I don’t want to give away exactly what it is but I’ll say that going in to the process of writing the script, the thing I was most adamant about was these kill films and the idea of Bughuul killing—the creation of these homicides through art was I think the things that made Sinister, Sinister, from a franchise point of view. So yeah [the Super 8 footage is] going to be in there.
The director search was tough, with only a few candidates meeting Derrickson’s criteria, though Twitter may have ultimately played a crucial part in getting Ciaran Foy the job:
DERRICKSON: It was more difficult than I thought it was going to be [to find a replacement]. I don’t know how many movies I’ve watched and I’ve seen a lot of a bunch of low budget horror; I’m a fan of it and I watch it pretty frequently so I went back and I watched everything that I knew that I liked and tried to find everything I could from the last 5, 6 years to see what else had been done out there, and I felt that there were only 2 or 3 directors that I thought worked at this budget level or something close to it, which I thought was important because it’s this special kind of filmmaking to be able to make a movie work at such a low budget. So that was a criteria. Ideally I wanted somebody who had some experience working with kids, but that wasn’t a must, and then just the ability to create tension with an emphasis on performance to sort of tell the story through the actors. And I was really surprised actually how few directors met that criteria and Ciaran was the one of three that I was looking at who was available and I thought best fit the bill.
It’s a little nerve wracking to do it, it would be easier if I hadn’t invested so much time in the script, but when you also take all the time to write a whole screenplay—and it was a hard screenplay to write, took a lot longer to write the sequel than the first one to get it right.
FOY: I actually have Twitter to thank for getting this gig as well because it was just a bizarre sort of thing whereby I follow Scott on Twitter anyway, and it was back in January or February or something that he tweeted, “I just watched this movie, Citadel on Netflix everyone’s got to check it out.” And so I replied to that I was like “Hey man, glad you liked it I’m the guy who made it.” And then he started following me and started direct messaging and asking me specific questions about it and then it was like, “Would you be interested in reading the script for Sinister 2?” it was like, this is weird. (laughs) And I was like, “Yeah absolutely,” and then sort of spoke to him for the first time on Skype. So yeah Twitter, Skype, Netflix—5 years ago I wouldn’t be here. (laughs)
In writing the script, Derrickson and Cargill found the key to horror sequels is finding a different point of view:
DERRICKSON: I’d like there to be 10 of them, but it really it depends on how this turns out and how it does. The reason the script took so long was because both [co-writer C. Robert Cargill] and I have seen so many horror franchises, we’re really familiar with how they tend to work and what the bad tendencies are. So we were both really committed to writing the kind of horror sequel we would like to see, and that proved to be a lot more difficult than I think either of us were expecting. We threw out more large chunks of writing on this script than anything I’ve done in my career, probably just because it just felt like if we were going to do it we had to hold ourselves up to that kind of standard, and the trick of it was finding a different point of view to get into it, because the horror sequels that I have really liked tend to expand the mythology but also deepen your appreciation of the original in unique ways that give you some elements that you loved from the first one. But they also will surprise you, you connect with it but not imitative I guess is the way to say it.
James Ransone based his performance on a Chris Farley SNL sketch:
RANSONE: It was me and Ethan [Hawke] in rehearsal and I came in and was like, you know as an actor you’re allowed to draw from any inspiration and rip anything off and no one calls you on it, but I was like, “Oh it’s I’m playing like a version of the Chris Farley Show,” do remember that? Where he’d interview McCartney and he’d be like, “Do you remember that time where you wrote the Love That You Make is Going to Be the Love you Take?”
FOY: So if you go back and watch the opening scene there’s just this contained star struck thing going on that’s actually incredibly funny.
RANSONE: That’s what I did the whole time.
In the sequel, Ransone’s character is out to correct past mistakes:
RANSONE: Without giving anything away, I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s like my obsession picks up where Ethan’s ends, and I think a lot of it is what first starts is a guilty conscience actually becomes trying to correct some mistakes of the past.
Shannyn Sossamon’s character grounds the film in drama:
SOSSMAMON: What my character’s going through, I don’t think it relates to the horror so much that you’re talking about in the first Sinister. She’s very protective of her two boys, who are the stars of the film, and they’re going through something much more intense, but she’s on the run from her very abusive husband. So there’s a deep emotional thing happening there for sure, but it’s like a different building in a way. It’s a different struggle, and the kids are going through both that and their own things.
There’s a church in Sinister 2 that plays a part in Bughuul’s expanded mythology:
DERRICKSON: For me it was just starting with a place and an architecture that has no religious connotations, it’s purely imagery. It ends up becoming a place that Courtney, the character that Shannyn plays, ends up spending a lot of time there and has reasons to be there, and it has a dark history that ties into the into the Bughuul mythology.