Sinister 2 (Blu-ray Review)

Sinister 2Arriving by way of Blu-ray on January 12th, from Director Ciarán Foy (Citadel), Sinister 2 is coming to seduce your children to project film onto your wall and then gruesomely murder you while recording it. If you were wrapped up in the ancillary character of Deputy So-and-So, played by James Ransone (“The Wire”) from the first film, you are in luck, because he is the star of the sequel. And he is back to make right the tragedy of his friend Ellison Oswalt, who never even asked his name, and to end the chain of murders brought about to appease the sinister Bughuul. When So-and-So runs into a hitch in his plan to put a stop to the murders, he finds himself aiding the family of Courtney, played by Shannyn Sossamon (The Rules of Attraction), Dylan, and Zach, played by real-life brothers Robert and Dartanian Sloan. In a race against time and the viewer’s patience, will So-and-So be able to stop Bughuul from claiming more victims?

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(For the purposes of adequately reviewing this film, I will be presuming that we have all seen Sinister. If we haven’t, we should, for it is a better-than-average horror film that paces itself well and showcases Ethan Hawke’s acting talents. In short, Spoilers ahead for the first film)

As the Blu-ray cover informs us, Sinister 2 is the sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit horror movie Sinister. “Sleeper” seems like an appropriate choice of words, as Sinister 2 seems to be trying its hardest to lull the viewer into a gentle repose. Gone are all the things that made the first film worth watching. Sinister had good characters put into eerie situations with some solid camerawork and good acting. It also presented itself as a mystery, peeling back layers to both its main character and the audience as the film progressed and it infused within that mystery some things that go bump in the night and a scratchy, messy, unsettling soundtrack. Sinister 2 kept the soundtrack and decided that all that other stuff was worthless.

The main issue facing a film like Sinister 2 is that anyone who saw the first film (presumably the entire audience for a sequel) already solved the mystery. So, it would be important to either add a new wrinkle, look at things from a different perspective, or kill the main villain. Now, the first option requires work and thought, and this is a modern horror sequel, so that is automatically out. This is also produced by our old friend Jason Blum, who makes a living off of endlessly sequelizing everything he touches, so the third option is out. And that leaves the filmmakers with option number two: look at things from a different perspective. Sinister had a man slowly uncovering the cause of a number of murders while he also fell into near insanity and eventually got murdered by his daughter, who, off-screen, had been seduced by an ancient malevolent deity called Bughuul. Sinister 2 decides to show the viewer that seduction. Which, at first, sounds great. But, what that involves is less of “a boy fights against ancient demon to protect his family only to tragically fall victim to the power of the darkness” and more of a “cavalcade of child actors, set on translating Bughuul’s wishes into actions put on a show of increasingly violent snuff films to a young boy and then they all bore the viewer to sleep with underwhelming performances.”

So, the movie itself is fairly bland. Deputy So-and-So is trying to burn down the houses that any of the victims of Bughuul might have lived in so he can stop the next murder from happening and he finds a family living in the next house on the list. He befriends the family and tries to understand more about the history of Bughuul as the young boy Dylan slowly gets seduced by Bughuul’s child minions. There is a subplot about the mother of the children being on the run from her abusive husband, but that part isn’t handled with any tact or nuance, so it is, at best, boring. The only new revelation about the Bughuul mythos that we are treated to is that people have been making artistic tributes to him in the form of documenting the murder of their families for longer than we suspected and that those might come by way of paintings, films, radio broadcasts, or other media. This little fact is less important to the overall story of this film and more important to find a way to continue the Sinister brand forward into more and more shoddily made sequels.

It appears that the viewer is either supposed to be scared by the creepiness of Bughuul and his army of ghost children, which worked well in the first film, or scared by the shocking torture elements of the snuff films that the ghost kids use to seduce the main child to Bughuul’s cause. However, since the creepiness is undercut by cheap jump scares and the shock elements are too wildly violent for the tone of the rest of the film, neither of these pieces seem to work well in the overall product. It ends up making the film feel like it lacks its own identity. It could have gone for shocking brutality and stayed with that, or it could have continued the tradition of creepy mysterious drama from the first film and that may have been successful with significantly better writing and acting. But, it chooses to walk this strange line between the two, never really succeeding at either of them.

The two main adult actors in this film do pretty well with the material they are given. James Ransone as So-And-So shows the hints of growth as his character moves from nervous mumbly coward in Sinister to stone-faced fighter of evil. Shannyn Sossamon only gets about four seconds of time on screen where her performance really shines, but that is more the fault of an underdeveloped character and not the actress herself. The two living children are both bland, annoying, and slightly too type-ish. Like one is the weak kid type and one is the bully kid type. They aren’t really characters as much as they are roles to be filled. The ghost kids are all terrible and are given far too much of the weight of this film to carry on their tiny ghost kid shoulders. The guy who plays Bughuul mostly just spends his time waiting out of frame so he can jump out and scare the audience when the film remembers that it is a horror and not a family drama.

What Jason Blum and Sinister 2 don’t realize is that jump scares aren’t frightening and music isn’t the only element of a film that builds tension. So, like the countless Paranormal Activity sequels, or The Gallows, or Ouija before it, this film decides that instead of telling a story, the goal should be to get characters into dark places so the music can swell and die down and then something “unexpected” can flash onto the screen. It is so routine at this point that one can practically call out the moment when the “scare” is supposed to happen. Knowing when you are supposed to be scared, is, and this might come as a surprise to horror movie producers, not scary. So, don’t watch Sinister 2. Go watch Sinister. It does a lot of interesting things that keep the viewer wondering if Ethan Hawke will figure everything out at the same pace as the audience and it is also much more interestingly filmed.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Details are clear and defined. Some of the snuff film footage is made to look like it was done on an old 16mm camera, so it is purposely less detailed than the rest of the film. While this is done far more lazily than the first film, which actually shot some things on an old 8mm camera and used practical effects, it shouldn’t necessarily be a knock on this film’s clarity.

Depth: The extra wide screen aspect ratio can tend to make shots that aren’t done right to look flatter than they should and this film tends to escape those problems by mixing up indoor and outdoor locations to give the depth of field a little workout.

Black Levels: Lots of shots at night or in dark buildings are produced accurately with deep blacks throughout.

Color Reproduction: Colors seem realistic and correctly reproduced.

Flesh Tones: Bughuul and the ghost kids have an unearthly pallor to them, so they intentionally have non-traditional flesh tones, but everything else in the film looks fleshy and good.

Noise/Artifacts: Artifacting and noise are not present throughout the film. Looks good.

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Audio Format(s): DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Particularly when comparing this to the first film, it feels like the sound lacks some depth. We stay fairly toward the middle of sound dynamism here.

Low Frequency Extension: The low channel is very underutilized on this release. Even in those music swelling moments, that normal room-shaking rumble is noticeably absent.

Surround Sound Presentation: One of the places that the first Sinister shined was in using the surround channels to up the creep factor around Ethan Hawke’s character. This film woefully misses the mark on reproducing the same feeling. Very little surround usage and sometimes unnecessary usage, like normal speaking voices coming out of the rear speakers when the people are talking in a large barn.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and centered for the most part. Except in the previously mentioned barn scene.

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Includes Ultraviolet Digital copy of the film

All special features are in 1080P HD

  • Deleted Scenes (10 minutes total) – 6 short deleted scenes that each would have made the film worse by their inclusion and one that would have been okay. Some explain too much or would have been strange pace-changes where they were meant to be inserted. One is a scene that would have fit in near the ending that seems to set up for another sequel and actually made sense as it was set up from a seemingly innocuous background of a shot earlier in the movie. No commentary on any of them, so it is left up to us to assume why these scenes just didn’t quite fit.
  • Time to Watch Another: The Making of Sinister 2 (10:11) – The filmmakers explain things like trying to reassemble the original production team from the first film, working with the child actors, and giving Bughuul a larger role in this film over the first one. This heavily features Jason Blum trying to convince the viewer that what they made was a scary film. It adds nothing to the viewing experience.
  • Extended Kill Films (10:00) – Each of the gory 16mm snuff films that are used to seduce the young boy shown back to back with more footage than we see in the film. These are inventive, but they are kinda boring on their own and the gore is a reminder of how these don’t fit into the overall movie experience.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Ciarán Foy (1:36:00) – The director seems to be really excited about having made this film. It is likely due to him being given the gig because he was twitter friends with Scott Derrickson, the director of the first movie. There are a few interesting insights about some of the locations or the struggles of filmmaking, but after watching the main feature, there is really nothing that this director could say about the making of it that could make anyone feel that it was worth watching.

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Summary Dex-1Dexter-_5Dexter-0Dexter-0Dexter-0

Sinister 2 is just a ploy to cash in on a decent horror movie to make a franchise where there doesn’t need to be one. Despite trying to tell the story from a different perspective than the first film, this one doesn’t really come into its own nor do anything interesting with the shift in view. The soundtrack, lifted mostly from the first film, really fits the creepy moments well, but is out of place with the new, gorier snuff films that the ghost kids have made. Overall, the film really never needed to be made and definitely doesn’t need to be seen.

If curiosity gets the best of you, however, find out how you can enter to win a copy of the Blu-ray at this link right here.

Sinister 2 Blu-ray Cover


I like to be challenged to think about things, so I studied Philosophy in college. Now I am paying for it.

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