Scott Derrickson's SINISTER is more than creepy, it's an unsettling collision of the Gothic past and a modern world.
Sinister. 2015. Directed by Ciarán Foy. Screenplay by C. Robert Cargill & Scott Derrickson.
Starring James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco, Tate Ellington, John Beasley, Lucas Jade Zumann, Jaden Klein, Laila Haley, Caden Marshall Fritz, Olivia Rainey, & Nicholas King. Alliance Films/Automatik Entertainment/Blumhouse Productions/Entertainment One/IM Global/Steady Aim/Tank Caterpillar.
Rated 14A. 97 minutes.
Sinister came as a surprise to me when it first came out. The film was creepy and visceral at times, even if there were a few elements that let me down (including Bughuul’s face). But overall, Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill did a good job making a modern horror chiller. I knew it would inevitably spawn a sequel. Going in there was hope it might attain a similar level of terror. Honestly, this one is almost as good, if not better. Sinister 2 has a definitely creep-filled quality and there are moments of genuine horror, scenes I found worked on my nerves in an excellent fashion.
Ciarán Foy’s first solo feature film was the marvelously odd and disturbing Citadel. When they announced him as director for this project I had high hopes. He does his best, the atmosphere he crafts along with the help of cinematographer Amy Vincent is filled with dark and terrifying corners. What I’m most impressed by, though, is the script from Cargill and Derrickson, which uses the mystery they attained in the first, continuing on in the hands of Deputy-So-and-So, and adds in more character development than we even got in the original. I’m still not positive whether I enjoy this one or the first more – it’s a hard choice, as I love both James Ransone and Ethan Hawke respectively in their roles. This one managed to make Bughuul’s face look better than the first somehow, as well. The story is one that sinks into your skin and grabs hold. Oh, and the found footage tapes? They’re
almost definitely nastier, bound to make some of you squirm.
Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon), along with her sons Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan), move into a country house. On edge all the time, it soon becomes apparent Courtney is running from her brutish, abusive husband Clint Collins (Lea Coco).
But even worse, the former Deputy So-and-So (James Ransone) has his eye on Courtney’s new house. Turns out, after the death of Ellis Oswalt, the ex-deputy was considered a suspect, but quickly released and cleared. He then went on to start figuring out more of what was happening to Osawlt; he soon discovered Bughuul. From there, he set about trying to save any further families by burning down marked houses.
Only now Bughuul has one of the young Collins boys in his sights. And there’s no telling whether So-and-So will be able to save the family in time.
The writing is real solid here. Now, I know – there are some plotholes with how the tapes were made, how those little kids could do all the work, and so on. Well to that I say, part of this is clearly supernatural. You know this. So suspend your disbelief a while, try not to pick it all apart. Mainly, I love the writing in terms of the family dynamics happening, as well as the character development all around. First, adding in the whole abusive father subplot with the family is a wonderful addition in the sense that it adds a whole extra dimension to what’s going on re: Bughuul; it plays into his convincing of the children to kill their families, as we’ve got two troubled couples, particularly the youngest who can’t deal with his life in a broken family. Then when you put in James Ransone’s character, adding jealousy to the mix and all those emotions, that makes the stakes even riskier, an extra piece of drama. Secondly, the character development of Courtney and Ex-Deputy-So-and-So are equally interesting. Courtney has this life riddled with complications, as she’s trying to escape the abuse of her husband, of which she and her oldest boy bear the brunt constantly. Seeing the first scene with the family where they go to the grocery store and she calls out her code word, it’s a perfect way to introduce them and their predicament. The former deputy has his own troubles, having seen the stiff, unjust arm of the law against him, a lawman himself, when he helped Ellison Oswalt in the first film. So we get to see part of the fallout here, and having him off the force also allows for a different dimension to the character we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Here, he’s more of a regular guy, but he uses his skills and know-how, as well as knowledge of the case, to do what he can. His own subplot of going around trying to burn down the houses targeted by Bughuul was a good, inventive way to keep things going, instead of him simply trying to involve himself in the next apparitions of the entity elsewhere. These two characters, plus all the family drama, make Sinster 2 very enjoyable.
Horror is the name of this game. There are plenty of the shadowy, creeping scenes we got from the first, even a couple jumpy bits. Most of all there’s an air of dread, a tension thick from the first few frames until the final ones. Not only do we get the tapes here as found footage, like the first film, there’s also the added factor of one of the kids carrying the old camera around, filming his attempts at murdering his family. So there are a few intriguing sequences near the end, in the last 20 minutes, where the boy aiming to kill his family runs with the camera, as we follow both him and the other characters; the editing is stellar, switching from the ticking Super 8 camera to the frantically framed regular scenes. These different looks come together well. I loved the scene where Deputy-So-and-So gets the family out of their trouble, then they run through the cornfield, and behind them comes the boy with his camera, and the regularly filmed portions mix with the Super 8 to create a truly creepy back-and-forth that is used a bunch in several scenes following, but never too much. That added a nice flair to the style director Foy went after, emulating parts of the first while also giving it his own special touch. Add to that an amazing hand cutting with a small scythe, the nasty little Super 8 tapes Bughuul gets his kiddies to create, and the elements of terror are strong in this one.
I have to give this the same rating I give the original – 4 stars. There are parts that could’ve done with a bit of extra tweaking, such as some of the moments with the ghost kids. That being said, everything else makes up for it, in a large way. Ciarán Foy has a good eye, plus both James Ransone and Shannyn Sossamon bring credibility to the cast, as do the two Sloans playing brothers; even the asshole dad is good at being an asshole dad. So with the stellar writing, mostly, on the part of Cargill and Derrickson, added to the creepy visuals and the performances, Sinister 2 is a worthy sequel. I’d be interested to see if they could pull of another one, only if a decent story and characters were able to organically find their way into another screenplay. But this one is worth it. Don’t let people sell it short, see the damn thing for yourself. You may just find yourself creeped the hell out in fine form.