Scott Derrickson’s 2012 shocker SINISTER was a surprise hit, telling a grim story about a true crime author moving his family into a crime scene and eventually opening up a Pandora’s box of evil in the form of a film projector and a boogieman that lived inside of it. It was an in your face film, didn’t pull a single punch and gave one grim ending that left a lot of viewers holding their mouths in shock. As we all know, when a film does well, talks of a sequel typically come up, and faster than you can say “Sinister 2”, there was the inevitable announcement of well,…SINISTER 2. How would a sequel to a film in which every major character is killed off fare? Would taking a minor character from the first film, and fleshing out said character be enough to make an interesting continuation? More times than not, the answer is no, but thankfully, SINISTER 2 (this time directed by CITADEL‘s Ciaran Foy, from a script written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill) is not only a worthy continuation, but is a rare sequel that surpasses the first film in shocks, character development and tells one hell of a genre tale.
What sets SINISTER 2 apart from the first film right from the beginning, is how different of a film it is. While some might be turned off by that shift, it’s such a wonderful shift, that you can’t help but to know that the sequel isn’t trying to just be a rehash of the first film, but accomplish something completely different. While Ethan Hawke’s doomed Ellison Oswalt character was for the most part, concerned with reviving his writing career, and didn’t pay attention to the fact that his insistence on pushing it would lead to his family’s demise, we get a character in SINISTER 2 that is COMPLETELY about helping others instead of just himself. The idea to take the Deputy So and So character from the first film (which served as a comic relief of sorts in that film) and flesh his character out is a good one, because just within the film’s first 15 minutes, we see a character that is so full of regret and pain over the failure to help the Oswalt family, that he’s ready to do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen to another unfortunate family of people, this time being a young mother and her two kids. There’s a sadness in the eyes of the now Ex-Deputy So and So (played so well by James Ransone) that as a viewer, you can’t help but to feel for. He’s a man plagued by the events of the first film, and when he discovers Courtney Collins (Sossamon) and her two sons, Dylan and Zach (played by real life brothers Robert Daniel and Dartanian Sloan), there’s a look of disappointment, knowing that this could eventually lead to another failure.
The shift in the plot that was mentioned above is in the fact that instead of we as viewers not knowing what’s going on for half of the film, SINISTER 2 involves the audiences in a plot that sees the formerly abused Dylan being haunted by the children that the first film’s villain Baghuul has taken hold of, forcing Dylan to watch various reels of how each kid murdered their families. We know right away what entity and evil our protagonists are up against, and while the ambiguity and lack of really showing Baghuul in the first film’s opening half worked for that one, the struggle that Dylan feels, as a child that was previously abused by a hellishly mean father that is looking for the family, on top of being bullied by a more aggressive and cruel older brother, we see the possibility of Dylan being taken over by the children and Baghuul, and it makes us as viewers sympathize for the young kid.
In SINISTER 2, we’re given multiple characters to latch onto, instead of the first film’s Ellison character, trying to solve a murder while also being thirsty for the fame he once had, and the sequel’s script is so well written by Derrickson and Cargill, that we don’t feel the need to see another version of the first film, which becomes a very welcomed change. There’s such a level of chemistry between Ransone and Sossamon, that as viewers, you’re hoping with all of you emotions that he’s able to save this family, in some form of self-redemption, not only to himself, but to the characters of Courtney and her sons. The boys’ father (Lea Coco) is such an aggressively abusive character, that when So and So (for the love of God, why didn’t they give him an actual name this time!) comes to be in the family’s life, it’s a positive and caring male figure that Courtney and her sons aren’t familiar with.
On the surface, SINISTER 2 could very well be about a kid possibly be overtaken by evil, but there’s so much under the surface, that it becomes more than just a horror sequel, it becomes a powerful statement about abuse, redemption, and the idea of nature vs. nurture when it comes to the aggressive tendencies of some children. Yes, there are new and horrendous reels that will creep you out, and yes the film has its share of jump scares, but what it also has, is heart…and it has a lot of it. If only more sequels would take a cue from SINISTER 2 and try to do something different than the films that came before them, then the genre would have more original and standout films, because SINISTER 2 isn’t just one of the best sequels in a while, it’s quite easily one of the best horror films of the year.