Blu-ray Review: Sinister 2

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Haven't seen the original Sinister, the 2012 horror hit that starred Ethan Hawke as a homeowner who finds chilling snuff films in the attic? No big deal, as Sinister 2 more or less stands on its own. The sequel got savaged by critics and under-performed at the box office, but it's actually packs in more suspense, scares, and depth than the original. Not a popular opinion, to be sure (14% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes—ouch), but I'll stand by the notion that Sinister 2 (arriving on Blu-ray from Universal Studios on January 12) is a more coherent creep show than director Scott Derrickson's original.

With Hawke's Ellison Oswalt out of the picture, the Collins family—single mom Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her kids Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan)—is the latest to be haunted by Bughuul (Nick King). Here's the twist: they move into the haunted farmhouse in an attempt to escape Courtney's abusive husband Clint (Lea Coco). But Dylan finds himself kept awake at night by the spirits of children who murdered their own family members in gruesome ways. They show him home movies depicting their crimes (easily the freakiest material in Sinister 2). They promise Dylan that his nightmares will vanish once he's seen all the films.

Meanwhile, former deputy So & So (James Ransone, returning from the first film) is systematically torching any house involved with a Bughuul-connected murder. Sympathetic to Courtney's plight, he can't simply kick her and the kids out of the house or else they'll be at risk of being discovered by Clint. As Sinister 2 progresses, it could be argued that the child abuse element is somewhat exploitative. Dylan and Zach are pitted against each other, perhaps unfairly, based on the abuse doled out by Clint—things get ugly, that's for sure. But as insensitively as the abuse angle is handled, it also raises the emotional stakes to a level we don't always see in haunted house movies. It helps considerably that the Sloan brothers are note-perfect in their roles, with Sossamon and Ransone also delivering strong work.

It's not the most original horror film and won't go down as an unheralded classic. But it is generally well-acted, effectively paced, and digs into scary subject matter that transcends the generic "boogie man" scares provided by Bughuul. This one took a critical beating (and probably will continue to), but it is undeserved. 

sinister 2 BD (302x380).jpg Universal has delivered the goods with a sharp 1080p transfer of Amy Vincent's moody cinematography. Predictably, much of Sinister 2 unravels in the dark of night and in a shadowy basement—the transfer handles detail in low-light situations very well. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is typical of recent lower-budget, studio-backed horror films, with plenty of LFE and surround activity to reinforce the scary moments.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition: extended kill films (these are particularly effective and quite disturbing). Other special features include a commentary track with director Ciaran Foy, deleted scenes, and a short 'making of' featurette.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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