Horror sequel “Sinister 2” is a very strange movie. Of course, it’s a horror film, so strange, ghostly and sinister events are expected. Yet this is a horror film that doesn’t quite know what it is. You can’t tell if the filmmakers (director Ciaran Foy, screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill) are deliberately going for a bit of a goofy, throwback feel, but that’s what comes across in this spooky tale. It’s almost like an ’80s movie you’d find on cable, and that might appeal to some horror audiences.
The film, like its predecessor, follows the creepy crawly antics of the ghoulish Bughuul (Nick King), a tall drink of nightmares. He’s installed in an old abandoned farmhouse where some grisly murders happened, as ghouls tend to be. Finding sanctuary there are Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two boys, Dylan and Zach (Robert and Dartanian Sloane), hiding out from her abusive ex-husband. Soon they encounter a former police deputy (James Ransone), working as a private investigator/ghost hunter who is scoping out the house. What they don’t know is that he intended to burn it, and all the ghosts inside, down, but their presence has complicated things.
Particularly since Bughuul’s gang of child ghosts have been visiting Dylan at night, entreating him to join their snuff film club. These scary little ghost kids are bad news, and Dylan knows it. Whether or not his brother Zach fully understands is another question. They are also witness to their parents’ nasty custody battle, in which the former deputy finds himself embroiled.
This isn’t a very scary movie, though there are a couple of good jumps. The potency of Bughuul and the kids quickly dwindles, and the whole thing has a rather goofy feel to it. Ransone, an electric and often unhinged performer, is here relegated to a rather awkward, buffoonish type, the kind of character who says obvious things like “what the hell am I doing here,” aloud to himself in a spooky house. Ransone appears to be having a bit of fun with it, and even draws a few (intentional) laughs from his portrayal.
The most sinister thing in “Sinister 2” is the terrifying domestic violence and its ripples throughout the family. Dad Clint (Lea Coco) is scarier with less screen time than any boogey man, proving the time-tested notion that it’s the monsters you see the least that are the most horrific. In a final sequence that pays homage to Michael Powell’s classic “Peeping Tom,” there emerges a rather conservative message about the effects of violent imagery on children, which is itself an indictment of watching horror movies. If that is the case, audiences shouldn’t worry too much, as the effects of “Sinister 2” won’t be long-lasting.
☆☆ stars out of 5
Cast: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert and Dartanian Sloane, Lea Coco, Nick King. Ciaran Foy.
Director: Ciaran Foy.
Running time: 97 minutes.
Rated: R, for strong violence, bloody and disturbing images, and language.