When you get to the final scenes of the original Sinister, there are any number of things you could be thinking. One thing I would be willing to bet didn’t immediately pop into your head is, “When is the sequel coming out?” At the time of its release, it received mixed reviews overall, but those within the enclave of horror fandom generally appreciated it for being more than simply another found footage or teen jump scare movie. And, in the end, the movie wrapped itself up in a pretty satisfying way so where, you might ask yourself, might a sequel even go from there?
Sinister 2 follows good old Deputy So and So – his actual credited name - who befriended Hawke’s character in the first movie and tried to aid in his investigation. After the Oswald’s are found brutally murdered in their home, save for their youngest daughter, who is missing, So and So is unable to let it go. He blames himself for not being able to save the family in time and makes it his mission to be sure that what happened to that family won't happen again. When his hunt for Bagul leads him to a secluded farmhouse in middle America, the Deputy finds himself fighting to save another family from the clutches of the monster.
In the absence of Ethan Hawke, James Ransone turns in a pretty solid performance as Deputy So and So. Building a story around a throw-away character from a previous movie can be tough, but Ransone makes the transition look easy. And while the film does still concern itself with one family who unwittingly place themselves in Bagul’s sights, Sinister 2 is much more interested in a different side of that story. Now that it has been revealed that the Eater of Children feeds on the corruption of innocence, namely getting kids to kill their families for him, we are able to see more of what happens to the children themselves which is, ultimately, pretty satisfying. We get some new kill tapes, most of which are even more effective than what we saw in the original film and, this time, we see them through the eyes of a child, making them all the more horrifying to watch.
In the end, the desire to differentiate the film from its predecessor may have been a bit too successful. Nowhere was this disparity more apparent than in the overall tone. Where the director of Sinister, Scott Derrickson, was adept at creating tension in a negative space (silence, darkness, and often a lack of anything), Ciaran Foy seemed to throw as many loud noises and jump scares at the screen as possible, to much cheaper effect. This lack of finesse is apparent in how much more prevalent the dead children and Bagul are. This movie is also without Vincent D’Onofrio, who went uncredited in the original as a renowned Demonologist, replaced here with no more than a throw away line about the “new Dr. Jonas”.
The primary weakness of Sinister 2 seems to be in its attempt to justify its existence. The story layed out in the original was clearly told and decisively ended, and in the efforts to expand it the plot holes really start to show. While it often went overboard, missing the minimalist mark that made the first one popular it is absolutely not the worst I’ve seen; particularly as far as your typical summer horror fare is concerned. All credit is due to a fairly strong cast and what proved to be some deeply unsettling snuff films.