“Whatever happened to the Oswalts is going to happen again,” warns James Ransone’s private investigator, at a key scene in Sinister 2. “It’s only a question of where and when”.
Much like the unstoppable power of supernatural forces, there’s a grim inevitability to this horror sequel. Scott Derrickson’s 2012 original, a brooding haunted house mystery, hardly demanded a follow-up. But when an original movie earns a box-office gross twenty-five times its budget, a sequel is going to happen – it’s only a question of where and when.
Ciaran Foy’s franchise continuation hits the key beats of the first film efficiently and effectively enough, shifting the focus to a young boy haunted by nightmares, and a private investigator (Ransone, reprising his earlier role) attempting to break the chain of the boogeyman Bughuul (think Saw’s Jigsaw crossed with the lead guitarist from Slipknot).
Tormented by a cluster of creepy ghost children, the boy is coaxed down to the basement of his creaking poorly-lit farmhouse (where else?), night after night. There, the creepy ghost child leader – adorned in a spiffy sweater-vest-and-tie combo, the preferred uniform of all creepy ghost children – implores him to watch old home movies on a vintage projector.
These home movies all initially depict the quintessence of the nuclear family: a fishing trip, a new home, a Christmas morning. Invariably, these wholesome harmonies are abruptly and brutally shattered by elaborate scenes of mass murder – crucifixion, arson, electrocution – orchestrated by Bughuul’s omnipresent influence.
Though not exactly the first to harness grainy old-school film as a tool of horror, there is undeniably something profoundly disturbing about these sequences. The flicker of the projector, the wobbly homemade camerawork, the unheard screams: it all makes for a visceral, unsettling experience.
But overall, the film seems to be in thrall to scares, not characters. Its predecessor delved into themes of obsession, mystery, and common parental anxieties – themes retrodden ever so lightly here.
Too often, it resorts to tactics as cheap and as predictable as a travelling fairground ghost train. While the first Sinister was B-movie horror with A-movie aspirations, this seems fairly happy to wear its B-movie stripes firmly on its sleeve. Workmanlike without ever threatening to be remarkable, it really was only a question of where and when.