Here’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of SINISTER 2 (2015) which went up Sunday night 8/23 at cinemaknifefight.com
Movie Review by Michael Arruda
(THE SCENE: A dimly lit basement. A door opens and MICHAEL ARRUDA enters. He comes upon an old Super 8mm film projector.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA (looking at projector): I haven’t seen one of these in years. This brings back memories from my childhood: watching my 8mm and Super 8 mm versions of the classic Universal and Hammer horror movies. Ah, the good old days! I even remember the introduction of Super 8mm and what a big deal it was. See, it projected a larger picture than standard 8mm.
Unfortunately, this projector is not here today for us to re-watch my old Super 8mm horror movie collection. No, it’s here because it plays an integral role in the movie I’m reviewing today, the utterly forgettable sequel, SINISTER 2 (2015). The 8mm films in this movie are films that show children murdering their families in the most brutal of ways. If SINISTER 2 succeeds at anything, it’s at being an ugly movie.
(Suddenly a group of ghost children appear, sitting around the movie projector.)
GHOST BOY: Jeesh! You’re a downer!
MA: I’m sorry. Snuff films like the ones depicted in today’s movie have a way of dampening my mood. Anyway, welcome to Cinema Knife Fight everyone. I’m Michael Arruda, and today I’m flying solo as my movie reviewing partner L.L. Soares wisely opted out of this one.
(The ghost children giggle.)
MA: What’s so funny?
GHOST CHILDREN (In unison): You’ll see.
MA: Whatever. Anyway, today I’m reviewing SINISTER 2, and if you haven’t figured it out yet by my sour disposition, I didn’t really like this movie. It’s definitely an example of when the sum of the parts do not equal the whole, because there were parts to this film that I actually liked, but as you’ll find out as we continue this review, they just didn’t add up to a complete package.
SINISTER 2 is a sequel to SINISTER (2012) a film that a lot of people liked, but I never warmed up to it. Its tale of a demon who possessed children and made them murder their families while capturing the gruesome killings on film left a bad taste in my mouth. It was just too ugly a tale for me to enjoy. That being said, it did have a well-constructed story that made sense, and it had Ethan Hawke playing the lead, so it had some things going for it even if it didn’t win me over.
SINISTER 2 opens with another grainy snuff film, where we see a family burned alive—oh fun! (Shakes his head).
GHOST BOY: Wouldn’t you like to watch one of our movies?
MA: No. Not at all.
GHOST BOY: Come on! Watch it!
MA: No! I’m reviewing a movie here. Go find some children to haunt.
In SINISTER 2 we meet the deputy from the first movie, once again played by James Ransone, only now he’s an ex-deputy because he lost his job after the events in the first movie. In that one, he had helped Ethan Hawke’s character investigate the evil that was haunting his family, and because he went behind his boss’s back, he got fired.
Here in SINISTER 2, the deputy goes around burning houses in order to combat the main demon in these movies, Bughuul. The logic behind his actions is questionable at best. The families haunted by Bughuul aren’t killed until they move out of their home, and then when new people move into the house where the murders occurred, Bughuul goes after them. The deputy believes if he burns these houses before new people move in, then Bughuul can’t haunt people. But if he’s constantly burning houses and Bughuul is still around, then obviously his strategy isn’t working. Otherwise, wouldn’t it take the burning down of just one house- the last one Bughuul haunted— to sever the line? I mean, how many houses is Bughuul haunting? Obviously quite a lot! I didn’t really get the reasoning behind the deputy’s actions here.
When the deputy arrives to burn the home where the family from the first film was killed, he finds a woman Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) secretly living there with her twin sons Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan), hiding out from her jerk of a husband Clint (Lea Coco) who’s trying to locate them so he can get his sons back. Courtney at first believes the deputy is working for her husband and is there to take her boys, but one he assures her that he’s not, that he’s there investigating the house and its connection to the previous owners’ murders—something that doesn’t seem to bother her at all— she allows him to stay on the property.
Again, this plot point left me slightly confused. The deputy arrives at the house prepared to burn it, but once he finds Courtney and her sons living there, he drops those plans and instead begins to investigate the property looking for clues that the demon responsible for the murders, Bughuul, has been there. Doesn’t he already know this? That’s why he went there in the first place, prepared to burn it down.
And, of course, Bughuul has been there, as a group of ghostly children has already contacted Courtney’s sons and has shown them their special set of home movies, setting the stage for yet another child to murder his family and film the slaughter, unless the deputy can stop them.
(The ghost children cheer.)
If this sounds like your type of thing, then have at it. I’d rather watch THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E (2015) reboot any day, and why that stylish film has been bashed so harshly I don’t know, but getting back to today’s movie, SINISTER 2.
As I said, there were parts to this movie that I liked. Let’s start with the cast. I really liked James Ransone in the lead role as the nameless deputy. It was fun to see a lead hero who wasn’t a wise-cracking macho type. He’s probably the most terrified guy in the movie, and yet he’s the one who gunning to stop Bughuul. The deputy is a likeable guy, and Ransone is very good in the role.
GHOST BOY: You gotta watch our movie! Please???
MA: Stop interrupting me! I’m reviewing a movie.
GHOST BOY: We’re gonna show it to you anyway.
MA: Suit yourself. I’m continuing my review.
Likewise, I enjoyed Shannyn Sossamon’s performance as Courtney Collins, the mom who’s constantly on guard and has to utilize all of her energy to combat the relentless efforts of her estranged husband. It’s too bad she couldn’t have used some of this energy to pay attention to what was going on with her two sons and a certain demon. About these supernatural events she’s completely clueless.
And even though Courtney and the deputy aren’t lovers in the story, they share a nice chemistry together.
(A grainy movie starts playing on the screen. MA ignores it.)
The two boys who play her twin sons Dylan and Zach, Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan, who are triplet brothers in real life, are effective enough and do a good job with the “good son, bad son” routine.
(MA hears a familiar voice.)
MA (pointing to the screen): Hey, that’s L.L. Soares!
GHOST BOY: I told you that you needed to see this.
(On screen, we see L.L. SOARES tied to a stake. He’s laughing.)
CHILD’S VOICE ON SCREEN: What are you laughing for?
L.L. SOARES: This is more fun than THE WICKER MAN!
CHILD: Uh, we’re going to kill you.
LS: Yeah, yeah, whatever.
(A hand lights a fire under the stake, and suddenly flames shoot out around LS who pulls out a cigar, lights it, and starts smoking it.)
LS (enjoying the cigar): Nice. Hey, you kids have any linguica? I could go for a barbecue.
CHILD: Why aren’t you dying?
LS (blows on his cigar, igniting a stream of fire that shoots across the screen and is followed by a high-pitched scream.) Because you are, you little brat!
MA: This is actually pretty cool.
GHOST BOY (quickly turning off projector): That wasn’t supposed to happen. Where’s that other film?
MA: While you’re looking, I’m going on with my review.
And the demon in these movies, Bughuul, in spite of the fact that he resembles Michael Jackson, is one of the scarier-looking film monsters to come along in the past few years. Yet in this movie, that’s about all he does: look scary. Other than this, he does pretty much next to nothing. It’s a real shame, because Bughuul is frightening, and what he does, possess children and make them murder their families, is even more terrifying, and yet he’s been in two movies that have failed to take advantage of these strengths. He deserves to be in a better movie. Here, we see him again showing up on computer screens and in the shadows, but that’s it.
The biggest problem I had with SINISTER 2 was its clumsy storytelling. For starters, it did a very poor job at the outset making connections to the first film, and if you haven’t seen SINISTER, you might not get what’s going on until about half way into the movie.
As I said earlier, I was confused with the deputy’s investigation. First, he’s going to burn down the farmhouse. Then he’s there investigating it.
If Courtney knows what happened to the previous owners of her house, and she says she does, why isn’t she even a little concerned? Especially knowing that a child disappeared there, shouldn’t she be a bit worried about her own kids? I realize she’s focused on hiding from her nut-job of a husband, but still, shouldn’t there be some concern or caution? Evidently not.
More so, the deputy definitely knows. So, why isn’t he warning Courtney about watching her children?
Of course, part of the answer is the gimmick in these movies— that Bughuul makes his move after the family moves out of the house into another house, which is why the deputy keeps telling Courtney not to leave the farmhouse, because he figures she’s safe as long as she stays there. Most of the families do move because Bughuul has been terrorizing them and so they feel their house is haunted and they move, I guess. Like a lot of other things in this movie, that’s not really clear. Strangely, though, in spite of the fact that the ghost children have contacted the twin boys and are showing them the snuff films, there aren’t any other freakish things happening there. Courtney and the boys only leave when her nut of her husband shows up and forces them to do so.
I was surprised at the muddled storytelling because the screenplay was written by the same two guys who wrote the first movie, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Derrickson also directed the first SINISTER. Part of the problem is there’s not much of a story to tell. Demon haunts child, child will murder family. That’s the premise. The only question is will the deputy be able to stop it?
GHOST BOY: Okay, watch this one! (Turns on projector, and MA looks at screen.)
(The grainy film reveals LS tied to kitchen floor with some sort of electric wiring tied to his leg. He looks sick.)
LS: Wow. That was some party last night.
(Suddenly we see water wash its way towards his body. A tiny child’s hand dips an electrical wire into the water, electrocuting LS, who instead of dying suddenly glows bright green. He then gets up and starts chasing the screaming child around house.)
LS: Come here you little brat! You want to electrocute someone? I’ll show you how do to do it!
(GHOST BOY shuts off film again in frustration.)
MA: I changed my mind. You can keep showing these movies to me. They’re hilarious.
Where was I?
SINISTER 2 also doesn’t have a scary bone in its celluloid body. The only thing remotely frightening in this movie is the films by the ghost children. They are gory, disturbing and dark, and since they involve characters we know nothing about they mean very little and carry very little emotional weight. They also have grown more elaborate, to the point where you doubt a child would be able to pull it off. For example, in one scene the family is hung upside down over a swamp and then lowered so crocodiles can bite off their heads. Did I say this movie was ugly?
And about those 8mm movies—- the murders which took place years ago, I could easily understand using an 8mm camera to film the proceedings, since that’s all that existed back then. But here in present day, wouldn’t the children be using cell phones, smart phones, or digital cameras? Who uses 8mm anymore? They don’t exist! Come on, Bughuul, get into the 21st century already!
Director Ciaran Foy’s idea of being scary is to show us the snuff films. That’s it. There aren’t any creative scares anywhere else in this movie, which is a complete shame. As I’ve already said, the character of the demon Bughuul has tremendous potential to be scary and he’s stuck in a movie like this.
And while I liked the main cast, the supporting cast is forgettable, led by Lea Coco as Courtney’s monster husband Clint, who is such an over-the-top jerk it’s almost unbelievable. When they all sit down to eat, he makes his family wait until he eats first. He beats his son. He verbally abuses his wife. He’s rich and powerful and has the police and local officials in his pocket, yet he looks like a construction worker. If anyone deserves to die in this movie, it’s him, and so when he does get done in, it’s the one satisfying moment in the movie.
SINISTER 2 is a forgettable sequel in a series I wish would cease now. In fact, if there was ever a character in need of a “re-imagining” or a re-boot, it’s the demon Bughuul. Jettison these inferior movies and get him on board in something else. The sooner the better.
I give it one and a half knives, and it gets the half because I like Bughuul and I enjoyed the performances of the four leads in this one.
(Turns to the ghost children).
So, do you have any more movies to show me?
(GHOST BOY turns on the projector and we see the grainy image of several children tied to tiny beds. They are the ghost children.)
MA: Hey, those kids look like you.
(LS suddenly appears on screen holding a chainsaw with a crazed look in his eye. He turns on the chainsaw and charges towards the beds.)
(The GHOST BOY knocks over the projector, and he and the other ghost children flee the basement screaming.)
MA: Well, at least now I know what L.L. was doing instead of reviewing today’s movie. I think he got the better end of the deal.