After watching the trailer for the up and coming Sinister 2 I have to say that, while it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen this month, it certainly left me feeling sceptical. Though I admit that I enjoyed the first movie, I was left with the impression that there was almost no need for a sequel. Yet far be it from me to deny the public a good horror movie. So, when the trailer for the sequel was announced, I was eager to see what they were going to do with the franchise.
At first, I found the trailer quite promising but, the more I watched it, the more I began to realise that something wasn’t quite right. Gone was the giddy thrill I’d had when watching the Sinister trailer, gone was my interest in the fate of a man I shall simply dub “New Ethan Hawke”. All that remained were a few desperate attempts to justify the trailer’s failings before finally coming to terms with the fact that Sinister 2, like so many horror sequels these days, was going to be more of a cash cow than a prize pony. So here are my reasons behind why those 2 minutes and 53 seconds left me underwhelmed. Note: The rest of the article contains spoilers for the film Sinister.
- Prior Achieved Resolution.
This goes back to my aforementioned argument, that Sinister didn’t expressly need a sequel. Though there were some unanswered questions, many of the loose ends had been tied up by the end of the first film. In fact, precisely what bothered me about Sinister was that there was absolutely no ambiguity in the original film. Sinister could have been brilliant if they’d chosen to build-up the viewer’s doubt over time. Are the family being stalked by a serial killer responsible for the murders in the super-8 movies? Is Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke), the main protagonist, gradually losing his mind and hallucinating what is happening to him? Or are there truly evil, supernatural forces at work?
No, says the Sinister trailer. No, it’s definitely Bughuul.
But surely there’s room there to argue that someone could be…
No. It’s a demon called Bughuul. Now stop asking questions and give us some money.
From the get-go, most of the tension in the original film is lost as you already know the cause of Ethan Hawke…I mean Ellison Oswald’s malaise. The film’s lack of tension is rescued by Hawke’s stellar performance but, seeing as he was hacked to pieces in the first film, I sincerely doubt he’ll be making an appearance in Sinister 2.
By the end of Sinister, we already know that Bughuul is behind all of the killings, that the family is killed once they leave a house where a family was previously murdered, and that Bughuul somehow captures the murders on super-8 film because, let’s face it, demons are well-known for being technologically illiterate. On top of that, we know that Bughuul encourages a child in the family to execute the murders for him and then abducts the child to a magical corridor, where he carries them in his big strong arms. So, what more do we need to know? I hear you cry. What more could a sequel tell us?
Bughuul feeds off the corruption of innocents…or something like that, says the Sinister 2 trailer, whatever, just give us some money.
- Tropes, Tropes, Tropes.
The second I heard the song “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Bogeyman” weasel its way into the trailer, I felt myself die a little inside. It felt as if the makers were poking me with a really big stick.
This is a horror film. *poke* *poke* Get it. A HORROR FILM. Spooky un-contextualised 1940s Halloween music! Children with make-up! People watching old black and white horror movies while themselves being in a horror movie! SEE! GIVE US MONEY.
This trailer was riddled with more horror clichés than my dog has fleas. In fact, there were so many that it’d be a waste of time to even list them all here. And what a boring list that would be. That being said, for comedy value I’ll name a few more:
People running through cornfields! Creepy old farmhouse! Family moving to out of the way place to “get away from it all”! Expert in the occult explaining stuff! And that’s not all!
- More “Scary” Children.
The worst part of Sinister for me was those “scary” children that inexplicably make their debut about halfway through the film. If my sarcasm wasn’t immediately palpable, let it be known that these children are about as scary as a kitten with a toy shark’s fin attached to its back. The children in Sinister look as though they’ve just sprinted through Hot Topic in an attempt to accrue as much black lipstick, dark eye shadow and white foundation as possible before being tossed out of the store. This becomes more laughable than scary, as all of them end up looking like extras on the set of Addams Family Values.
Unfortunately, the trailer for Sinister 2 is chock full of them. Barely a second went by without some child shushing me or staring blankly into the camera. There are so many of them that they’ve evidently run out of make-up, because most of the “scary” dead children just look like regular kids. I think someone ought to remind the producers that having a bunch of normal looking children watch a movie is not a horror film, it’s a sleepover.
- Rinse and Repeat.
In contrast to the “scary” children, my favourite part of the original film was the chilling super-8 sequences. These were executed perfectly, with incredibly unnerving music, realistic reactions from Ethan Hawke (Ethan Hawke), and cringingly brutal deaths. The opening sequence, in which a whole family are slowly being hung from a tree, chilled me long after the film ended. These homemade movies looked believably old and immediately cranked the fear factor of the film up tenfold. I was willing to forgive the film most of its trespasses, if only for these brilliant sequences.
And it seems a lot of people agreed with me, including the producers. You know what people like more than seeing something good once? Seeing the same thing over and over again! Like the “scary” children, the trailer for Sinister 2 is crammed to the rafters (quite literally, the original super-8 films are found in an attic) with neat little home movies of children brutally murdering their families. However, instead of Ethan Hawke’s gasping face, we’re left with the bovine stare of the least charismatic child in the film. Seriously, for the longest time I thought he was meant to be one of the dead kids. This oversaturation of what initially made the first movie so great was the first warning sign I picked up on in the trailer. You can have too much of a good thing, even if that good thing is watching hazy shots of children running their parents over with lawnmowers. In fact, especially if that’s the case.
- In Plain Sight.
The Babadook is a man forever obscured by shadows. The creature in Martyrs moves so quickly that we barely get a good look at it. Bughuul is a demon that stands in doorways and stares directly at the camera for a bit. See anything wrong with this picture? If you’re going to have a creepy entity in a horror movie, the test of time has taught us that our imaginations are far worse than anything you could portray on screen. No matter how scary your monster/creature/demon may look, overexposure to it will eventually disseminate any fear that the audience has of it. Particularly if your monster looks like a Slipknot fan-boy that you just hurled into a well-lit corridor.
- The 400m Jump Scare.
This is a criticism levelled against many new horror movies these days, but it doesn’t make it any less valid. In context, jump scares are a wonderful way to build up tension and provide a cheeky little jolt to keep the audience on their toes. Out of context, jump scares are just a cheap tactic that does more to shock than actually scare people. Not only that, they diffuse the tension of the movie, meaning that the culmination of fear that all good horror movies should end with is lost.
In Sinister, jump scares were used sparingly and ingenious decoy jump scares, such as Ethan Hawke falling through the floor, left me both startled and amused. Tragically, the trailer for Sinister 2 is full of Bughuul jumping out of doorways, children inexplicably screaming whilst filming…something, and loud noises.They even use one of the exact same jump scares from the original film, where the protagonist is focusing on the “scary” children and suddenly Bughuul drops down in front of him. If there are this many jump scares in the trailer alone, I can’t begin to imagine how many there are going to be in the film proper.
So I realise I may have been a little too scathing. After all, this is only a trailer and you never know, the film could be a triumph. But more likely Sinister will fall pray to the “franchise syndrome”, where producers realise that sequels of a proven horror franchise can be made for cheap and rake in the big box office bucks. I watched Scream devolve from an innovative satire of the horror genre to a parody of itself. I saw Rec go from a wonderfully realised zombie (or is it?) horror to a (currently boat-bound?) gorefest of stereotypes. And it seems as though, all too quickly, I’ll be doomed to watch Sinister go from inventive psychological thriller to Mr Bughuul’s Haunted House tour.