Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sinister 2

2.5/4

Starring: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco, Lucas Jade Zumann

Rated R for Strong Violence, Bloody and Disturbing Images, and Language

It would be too much to ask for a sequel to equal the amount of terror generated by the original film.  "Sinister" was perfectly constructed.  Each piece of the story perfectly placed, each shot perfectly composed, and each tidbit of information given with the perfect amount of menace and obliqueness.  Like the best horror movies, it relied on the power of suggestion, leaving our imaginations to fill in the blanks.  The result was a movie so terrifying that at the end of it, I ran out of the theater in a full sprint (something I feel no shame in admitting).

Sadly, despite being written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, who wrote the original, "Sinister 2" feels like a let down.  Director Ciaran Foy doesn't understand that in a movie like this, less is more, and as a result, the film feels muted.  He also changes some of the rules established in the original, and not for the better.  There are still some scenes of tension and successful shocks, but that's really all that can be said for the film's successes.

Deputy So-and-So (Ransone) has left the police department and has gone in search of Bughuul, the monster that slayed the Oswalt family (minus the daughter) in the first one.  The trail puts him in the sights of Caroline Collins (Sossamon) and her two sons Dylan (Sloan) and Zack (Sloan).  They're living in the middle of nowhere, having fled from Caroline's violent husband Clint (Coco).  What no one knows is that the children stolen by Bughuul are in contact with Dylan and Zack.

"Sinister" was effective because it was about the search for what happened to the previous families.  Bughuul was an enigma, an omnipotent figure relegated to the shadows.  What we learned of him came from second-hand knowledge and theories.  In the sequel, we don't necessarily learn more about him, but we do see the brothers interacting with the children he manipulated into his realm.  It's a pretty big mistake.  True, Ellison Oswalt's daughter talked to an invisible friend, but it was always off camera.  Only at the end did we know that she was being controlled by Bughuul.  Worse still, Milo (Zumann), the leader of the children, isn't the least bit menacing.

That aside, the film is too cluttered, and as a result, the film's focus is scattershot.  "Sinister" zeroed in on Ellison's search, with everything else directly linked to it.  The subplot about Caroline and her abusive ex, while effectively wedded into the story, is also a mistake.  I have no complaints about the performance of Lea Coco, who is quite good as a complete douchebag, but it takes up far too much time.

The ending is also problematic.  It's a unique take on a traditional slasher movie ending, but it's not particularly scary (that's more because of what came before).  However, the resolution doesn't work.  "Sinister" had the balls to go to its logical, and bleak, conclusion, but here, it goes halfway (presumably to leave room for a sequel).  It feels like a copout.

The acting is adequate, to say the least.  James Ransone returns as Deputy So-and-So, but the writing just isn't there.  In the first film, he was adorable; star-struck and bashful.  But in an attempt to give him a backbone, the filmmakers have robbed him of his personality.  Shannyn Sossamon plays a good battered wife, but that's all the film allows her to do.  Twins (actually triplets, although their sister doesn't appear in the film) Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan are uneven; decent, but lacking in polish.  They're also interchangeable, which makes some elements of the film confusing.

"Sinister 2" is not a disaster, but there's no denying that it's a let down.

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