Horror Sequel Marathon: Sinister 2 (2015)

Oh boy, critics did not like this one. With a 13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the second installment in this Blumhouse series was heavily panned by critics. And chances are, if you’re reading this right now, you didn’t like it either. So allow me to explain why you’re wrong about “Sinister 2.”

“Sinister 2” takes places directly after the events of the first film. With the Oswalt family dead, former deputy So & So continues his investigation of the demon Bhughul, burning down the homes connected to each of the crimes before another family can move into them. This lead him to a single mother and her twin boys– Zach and Dylan, who are already living on grounds where a sacrificial murder took places years prior.

At night, Dylan has intense night terrors of vicious murders and is frequently visited by a ghost boy named Milo, who lures him into the basement to watch Super 8 footage of children murdering the family. Milo promises Dylan that if he watches all the tapes, his nightmares will go away. Dylan, weathered and vulnerable from beatings from his father (whom they escaped but is still trying to find them), tries his best to resist Milo and the other ghostly children who demand he make his own snuff film.

Common complaints of the film were centered around “Sinister 2” not being believably scary.” Some noted that the sequel was redundant or as another critic put it, an unnecessary retread. Others criticized the sequel for being unfaithful to the tone of the original. These complaints– often contradictory– are meritless, because they disregard the creative intentions of the filmmakers, which were very different from the creators of the original.

Bughuul stalking as Dylan Collins (played by Robert Daniel Sloan) in Sinister 2.
Bughuul stalking Dylan Collins (played by Robert Daniel Sloan) in Sinister 2.

No, the haunting atmosphere of the original isn’t as abundant in the sequel. Rather than lurking in the shadows, the children Bughuul has possessed are in the foreground.

They’re no longer just props in the background, waiting for their moment to pop out. We get to know them. We learn why they are who they are and what they want, making the sequel less scary than the original but far more interesting.

This marks the first time since “It Follows” that I’ve truly developed a relationship with the protagonists of a horror film. Regardless of whether we’re meant to root for the killer or the victim, horror movies rarely do an adequate job of character exploration. “Sinister 2” doesn’t do a perfect job, but among its modern horror peers, it does a pretty damn good one.

Dylan seems genuinely conflicted; there’s a sense of dread in his eyes that makes you root for him to find peace. The mother Courtney, though cliched, delicately plays the desperate but capable victim. Former Deputy So & So is goofy, scared and determined– taking responsibility for the horror that he still doesn’t fully understand. And the ghostly Milo is appropriately enticing and devilish; he’s one of the highlights of the film.

“Sinister 2” benefits from a more lively pace. The original took place from the perspective of one man and was tonally a mystery-driven affair. Being able to see the horror unravel from the perspective of former Deputy So & So, a mother, and her two sons allows us to dive deeper in the mythology of Bughuul’s series of abductions. There’s a lot to explore this time around, which might be exhausting to fans of the original’s minimalist approach to Bughuul. But with a mythology as complex and alluring as this one, the “less is more” rule doesn’t apply.

Parallels have been noted between “Sinister 2” and Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn.” However, Bughuul’s second cinematic outing seems to more closely resembled the work of Guillermo del Toro– one of the greatest fantasy/horror filmmakers of all time. The tone is dark and abstract, but there’s a very distinct human component to the young protagonists. The ghostly child from “Sinister 2” even resembles a similar character in del Toro’s gothic horror masterpiece, “The Devil’s Backbone.”

LEFT: Andreas Muñoz as Santi in "The Devil's Backbone" and RIGHT: Lucas Jade Zumann as Milo in "Sinister 2."
LEFT: Andreas Muñoz as Santi in “The Devil’s Backbone” and RIGHT: Lucas Jade Zumann as Milo in “Sinister 2.”

Ultimately, “Sinister 2” is effective because it invests in its characters rather than just the scares. Instead of seeing only fear and dread, audience witness the resentment between the brothers, the desperation in the mother and inner demons of Milo. At least for me, that’s the kind of trade-off I was hoping for with the sequel. For these reasons, the sequel is the more sinister of the two.

The twists in “Sinister 2” aren’t early-Shyamalan sudden nor are they Hitchcock clever. The dialog is soemtimes a little rough around the edges. It has it’s minor flaws, but it’s a worthwhile sequel that I suspect will eventually be regarded as a highly-effective, misunderstood horror sequel. If you listen to the critics on “Sinister 2,” you might miss out on one of the best horror sequels this decade.

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Sinister 2 is available on DVD, blu ray and digital download here; the original can be ordered here. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!