Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: Sinister 2

Sinister 2 was written by C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson, and directed by Ciaran Foy.

Cargill and Derrickson also wrote the original Sinister, which Derrickson directed. This is apparently Foy's first time directing a mainstream studio film.

Was anyone really clamoring for a Sinister sequel? I doubt it. The original film was disturbing, muddled and not the least bit scary. It combined elements of police procedurals, snuff films and even bits from The Shining into a dull and forgettable package. Plus everything was wrapped up in the end, leaving nowhere for the story to go. The only people I can imagine wanting a sequel were the studio bean counters, since the first one grossed $48 million against its $3 million budget.

One good thing the original had was Ethan Hawke, who brought a lot to the table as troubled author Elison Oswalt. Sadly he doesn't return for the sequel, as his character met an untimely demise in the first installment. Sinister 2 features a cast of virtual unknowns (to me anyway), whose acting talents vary wildly.

Sinister 2 makes the same mistake as most horror sequels, by giving us a better look at its monster. In the first film, Bughuul, the ridiculously named ancient demon, barely shows his pasty white face. He's more of an unsettling presence than a full-blown creature, and is much more effective that way. Unfortunately Sinster 2 puts him front and center on the screen, as he does everything but mug for the camera. The rules by which he operates are even more preposterous here as well. Maybe someday filmmakers will realize that less is more.


The Plot:
As the film opens, Courtney Collins and her twin sons Zach and Dylan are living in a rural Illinois farmhouse. They're hiding from Courtney's abusive asshole husband Clint, who wants custody of the boys. Zach is aggressive and outgoing, while Dylan is shy and introspective.

Courtney's set up a workshop in the rundown church behind the house, which was the site of a grisly, ritualistic mass murder. Dylan suffers from nightmares, and is visited every night by a posse of ghostly children, led by Milo. These ghost kids use peer pressure (seriously!) to force Dylan to watch their various snuff films. The kids are working for the improbably named Bughuul, an ancient Babylonian demon who feeds on souls, or something.

Meanwhile, Ex-Deputy So & So (yes, that's how he's listed in the credits), the only character from the first film, is investigating various Bughuul murders, and burning down houses in which he appeared. I guess even though Bughuul's survived for thousands of years, he's still susceptible to arson. So & So tracks him to the farmhouse and is about to burn it down when he realizes Courtney and her kids are living in it. Whoops!

Clint arrives at the farmhouse with several state troopers, demanding that Courtney hand over the boys. So & So realizes the troopers don't have the proper documents, and tells them to beat it. Courtney's so grateful she throws herself at So & So and invites him to stay, which was probably supposed to be cute, but comes off as awkward, uncomfortable and a little pitiful.

Zach reveals to Dylan that he can somehow also see the ghost kids, and wants to know why they're not sharing their cool movies with him. Bughuul and the kids then turn their attention to him and abandon Dylan (which I think was the plan all along).

Clint then arrives with the proper papers and takes Courtney and the kids to his home, where he starts up with the abuse again. Moving out of the haunted house fulfills the conditions of  Bughuul's complicated supernatural contract, and activates Zach, turning him into a blank-eyed sociopath. He films his family as he poisons them, and somehow manages to string them all up like scarecrows in the middle of a corn field. He sets Clint on fire and burns him alive. Oh well. He was bad, so he deserved it, right? He's about to do the same to Dylan, when So & So arrives in his car and runs over Zach. So & So cuts Courtney and Dylan down and they flee into Clint's house. Zach, who was somehow only wounded, follows them inside with a sickle.

Zach savagely tries to kill his family while still filming. So & So manages to knock Zach's camera to the floor, breaking it. This pisses off Bughuul something awful, and he absorbs Zach's life force, I think, and takes him into his ghostly army. Why he punished Zach instead of So & So, or didn't just grab Courtney or Dylan is apparently none of our business. Clint's house then catches fire as the surviving characters flee.

So & So returns to his motel room to gather his belongings, as Bughuul's face pops up onscreen, in the most gratuitously stupid "GOTCHA!" ending possible.

• The first movie featured a series of blurry, unsettling snuff films. One family is hanged, one drowns in a pool, one burns while locked inside a car, etc. They were honestly hard to watch because they seemed real, as if they might have actually happened. 

In this film that sense of realism goes right out the window, as they ramp up the snuff films to eleven and beyond. They feature complicated scenarios that would have made Rube Goldberg proud, er, if he'd been a sadistic torturer. 

Oddly enough, we're supposed to believe that small kids somehow engineered and implemented all these schemes, which is ridiculous at best. In fact, many times I stopped thinking about how horrific the traps were and started wondering, "How the hell did a kid do that?" 

Take the alligator snuff film, for example. Somehow a small child hung his parents and siblings from a rope suspended over a swamp and watched the gators chomp away. How that was possible without a crew of twenty adults, a warehouse full of equipment and an on-site OSHA representative, I have no idea.

Same goes for Zach's murder scenario. First he drugged his parents and brother. Then this ten year old boy, armed with only a small sickle, expertly cleared half an acre of crops to form a makeshift arena in the middle of a corn field. Then he constructed three large, sturdy wooden crosses and planted them firmly in the ground. He then somehow hoisted everyone ten feet off the ground and hung them from these crosses. Impressive!

• Dylan begins talking to the gang of dead kids completely out of the blue. One minute he's playing with his brother, the next he's conversing with a gang of ghosts. No buildup, no clues that such a thing is possible, nothing. It's downright jarring. In fact for a minute or so I thought maybe the theater had skipped a reel.

• Courtney seems like quite a piece of work. She knows something horrific and grisly happened in the dilapidated church behind her house, but sets up a furniture restoring workshop inside it anyway.She probably stares into her bathroom mirror and whispers "Candyman" three times as well.

• I guess the fact that we're two movies into this series and "Ex Deputy So & So" hasn't been assigned a name yet is supposed to be funny? Cute? Hopelessly lame?

So & So was an interesting comic relief character in the first film, as he reacted to the supernatural shenanigans just like a normal person would-- by being scared out of his mind. Here though he's suddenly thrust into the position of Leading Man, which he just can't quite pull off. He spends the entire movie in a state of elevated fear and unease, coming off more like Scooby-Doo's Shaggy than a hero.

By the way, So & So is played by actor James Ransone, who from certain angles bears a close resemblance to the young Jim Carrey. It was downright distracting at times. It's hard to take the scares seriously when any second you expect the leading man to start talking out of his ass.

• Many modern horror movie monsters operate by ill-defined and ridiculous rules, but Bughuul are just downright absurd. An ancient demon who functions through home movies?

As near as I can tell, Bughuul waits until a family with at least two kids moves into a house he's currently haunting. He then somehow summons a trunk filled with a movie projector and a Super 8 camera inside. He also commands an army of ghostly children, who pressure one of the living kids to watch their disturbing home movies. Movies in which the kids killed their entire families in horrifying ways. Eventually the kid becomes unhinged by these films, and his family will move out of the house. That's apparently the signal for the kid to murder his own family and film it. The surviving kid is then killed or absorbed or something by Bughuul (I think) and indoctrinated into his spectral army.

At least I think that's how it works. I'm really not sure. None of it makes a lick of sense. For one thing, Bughuul is supposed to be thousands of years old. So why does he dress in a smart black turtleneck and blazer? I guess he likes to stay abreast of fashion trends. 

And why does an ancient Babylonian demon use modern technology like a movie projector? How long has Bughuul being doing this? How'd he recruit kids back in 1066? Did he show them some particularly gruesome tapestries? Or did he only start doing this once home movie equipment was invented? Is he going to buy his ghost kids a 4k digital camera soon?

• So & So gets a call from a Dr. Stromberg, who needs to speak with him about an urgent matter he can't discuss over the phone. So & So meets with Stromberg, who gives him some superfluous info about Bughuul involving a ham radio. It seems Stromberg recorded a signal off a ham radio that's supposedly one of Bughuul's victims.

The static-y signal contains an unsettling tune played on a tinkly toy piano, with a creepy child's voice speaking in Norwegian, telling her mother she can't hear Bughuul over her death screams. It's eerie and atmospheric, and believe it or not, it's based on a real thing! Well, sort of.

There are still many numbers stations operating today on shortwave frequencies, most of them holdovers from the Cold War. One of these frequencies contains what's known as the "Swedish Rhapsody," which is-- you guessed it-- a tune played on a tinkly toy piano, with a creepy child's voice. The only difference is that the real child speaks in German, not Norwegian, and she's reciting code numbers and not telling her mother to stifle while she murders her. If you're interested you can find recordings of the Swedish Rhapsody on the interwebs. It's definitely spooky.

By the way, this entire little interlude had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film. It could be excised completely and not harm the plotline one bit. The only reason it's there is to get So & So away from Courtney and her family for a little bit, so he can heroically return and rescue them at the last minute.

• Zach Collins is played by young actor Dartanian Sloan. Are you frakin' kidding me? Who the hell names their kid Dartanian? I hope his attention-seeking parents are proud of themselves. Germany's naming laws are looking better and better all the time.

• In Milo's snuff film, he gruesomely nails his family's wrists to the floor so they can't escape his torture. When Zach strings his family up like scarecrows, their arms and feet are simply tied to the posts. Well that was certain considerate of him! We can't be having our main characters running around with debilitating crucifixion wounds, now can we?

• I'm assuming Clint was supposed to be a terrifying, abusive figure, but he's so over the top he's practically a cartoon. I get the feeling that when Zach burns him alive, the audience is supposed to rise to their feet and cheer.

• The finale is very reminiscent of Children Of The Corn. Guys, if you're going to crib your climax from another movie, at least pick a good one.

Sinister 2 is a typical unwanted sequel to a film that was mediocre to start with. It's murky monster and his vague machinations don't help matters. I give it a C-.

1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter