That means more demonic seduction of children.
More murderous malevolence.
More familial anguish as this devilish entity (who looks like he just got ejected from a Slipknot cover band) unleashes more gruesome mayhem upon an already broken family.
Still reading? Alright then …
Courtney Collins is trying to find a sanctuary for herself and her twin boys, Dylan and Zachary. She’s on the run from her abusive, estranged husband, Clint. And she’s taken refuge in an old farmhouse owned by a friend’s father.
But it’s not just any ol’ farmhouse. Adjacent to it is a barn-like church … a structure in which a family of five was murdered and another child went missing.
Courtney’s unconcerned with the property’s history. She’s just glad to have located a safe place to lie low until she can figure out what to do next. And if such an infamous reputation keeps people away, all the better. But if she knew what was already happening to her sons, well, she might already be wishing she’d looked for a less haunted refuge.
Because the farm house and its companion church are anything but safe.
Here’s what already happing: Dylan’s having horrific nightmares that replay scenes from that mass murder as he’s stalked by the macabrely masked Bughuul.
His only relief? Well, it’s hardly any better.
Each night he’s visited by ghost-children, all of whom represent a family that was murdered on the property years before. These “helpful” acquaintances—Milo, Ted, Emma, Peter and Catherine—tell Dylan that the only way to stave off the nightmares is to join them in the basement watching home movies.
Home movies. Ha. They’re actually snuff films chronicling each child’s family being murdered in ghastly ways.
Dylan’s twin, Zach, can see the ghosts, too. And he’s jealous of the attention they lavish upon Dylan. Really jealous. After all, no one likes getting left out of the clique. Even if it’s a dead clique whose every action is being manipulated by the bloodthirsty Bughuul.
As tension between Dylan and Zach builds, an unnamed former police deputy (who investigated similar incidents in the first film) has been putting puzzle pieces together regarding Bughuul’s grisly history. Ex-deputy So and So (that’s what he’s called by the filmmakers) valiantly strives to help Courtney and her boys. He uncovers Bughuul’s monstrous habit of fatally falling upon certain properties and families. And he races against time to try to save Courtney from a similar end.
Courtney is a good mom in many ways. She’s trying hard to protect her boys from their abusive father, and she’ll do anything to keep them out of his clutches. She laments the fact that she didn’t protect Dylan from the beatings Clint rained down upon him when he was younger.
In a tender conversation with Dylan, So and So tells the boy that he tries to deal with his own fears by helping other people. Courtney likes the idea of redeeming broken-down things. She restores antiques, and she says of her passion, “I turn something worn out into something polished and beautiful.” That statement, however, is about as beautiful as things get in a film that’s far more often infatuated with all things horrible and hideous.
Sinister 2 is an incoherent mishmash of spiritual elements. Early on, So and So visits a priest to talk about the reality of evil. The priest isn’t very helpful. He mentions holy water, crosses and the name of Christ, then says that none of those typical wards and remedies (in horror movies, at least) will vanquish spiritual evil. “You don’t stop evil,” the priest intones. “You can only protect yourself from it.”
Or not. There’s simply no protection to be found anywhere for anyone in Sinister 2.
Bughuul works like this: He uses the deceased, ghostly children from families he’s already managed to have massacred to orchestrate the next round of ritualistic murders. Each ghost-child, it turns out, was the one who killed his or her family; together they seduce each new young “recruit” by making that unfortunate youngster watch grainy, 8mm home movies of the past atrocities.
Poor Dylan—not to mention the poor moviegoer caught in this murky mess—is thus forced to watch the five deceased kids’ snuff films. Dylan takes no pleasure in the awful movies. But Zach’s another story.
Bughuul takes full advantage of the latter boy’s jealousy and rage. A professor speculates that Bughuul likes to “feed off the corruption of the innocent.” And as the priest says, there seems to be no way to deal with the dude. So and So thinks they can break the cycle by burning down the houses Bughuul has claimed. And that’s a successful strategy to a point. But there always seem to be more such houses and more unsuspecting families moving into them.
Several scenes take place in the old church, where we see a cross and silver containers, presumably for holy water. A flashback shows Catholic congregants taking communion. The priest asks So and So if he’s ever had the sacrament of reconciliation. (So and So says he hasn’t, nor has he ever gone to confession.) Courtney tells her boys, “There’s nothing in that church that can hurt you.” But she’s dead wrong. Literally.
Some of Courtney’s outfits are low-cut. She and So and So kiss passionately.
The snuff films show one family being dangled upside down above a swamp as alligators bite their heads off. Another family is electrocuted, adults and children writhing onscreen until their bodies are burned and smoking. Another is bound, gagged and buried in the snow, frozen to death. Another is nailed in a star pattern to the floor of the church, and holy water containers are used to trap rats on each exposed stomach. (We see the predictably bloody result.) Still another clan gets executed via drill bits to faces.
It’s gory, bloody, disgusting stuff. And it’s not all we see. The brothers also watch a horror movie on TV that includes gruesome imagery. So and So repeatedly looks at grisly still images of Bughuul’s murders. Dylan has a foreshadowing nightmare about a family being hanged like scarecrows on crosses, hooded, then burned to death. This is very nearly the fate he and his mother suffer; in the end, only dear ol’ Dad is executed in this way.
So and So rams Zach with his SUV, stunning but not killing the boy. Zach hunts his mother, brother and So and So with a razor-sharp scythe. He lops off most of So and So’s left hand, leaving only a couple of fingers on the bloody stump. Zach has a fistfight with Dylan. The ghost children wreak all manner of havoc, at one point hurling a golf bag at So and So. The former deputy also gets pummeled by Clint, who threatens to kill him if he ever tries to talk to Courtney again. Clint hits his wife. A house burns to the ground.
Bughuul touches a boy and turns him into an ashen corpse.
About half a dozen f-words and two or three s-words. God’s name is abused five or six times (once paired with “d–n”). Jesus’ name is misused about as frequently. We also hear “h—,” “d–mit,” “b–ch,” “b–tard,” “a–hole,” “p—y,” “p—ed” and “douche.” Zach hurls the c-word at his mother.
Courtney hides a smoking habit. She and So and So get drunk on a bottle of liquor. So and So visits a professor who’s now drinking constantly in an effort to deal with what he’s discovering about Bughuul. So and So eventually downs a drink himself in an intense moment. Other scenes also picture adults drinking wine, beer, etc.
Beyond being a wife beater and a child abuser, Clint is a rich, influential bully who manipulates the courts to get custody of the boys. When Dylan refuses to eat dinner once the family is “reunited,” Clint tries to force food into his mouth.
This film’s predecessor, 2012’s Sinister, was co-written and directed by Christian filmmaker Scott Derrickson. This time around, Derrickson passed off the directorial duties but held on to the writing credit.
That makes this relevant: In 2005, Derrickson talked with Christianity Today (while promoting his film The Exorcism of Emily Rose) about what he believes horror can accomplish. “To me, this genre deals more overtly with the supernatural than any other genre,” he said. “It tackles issues of good and evil more than any other genre, it distinguishes and articulates the essence of good and evil better than any other genre, and my feeling is that a lot of Christians are wary of this genre simply because it’s unpleasant.”
He added, “I think that the horror genre serves a great purpose in bolstering our understanding of what is evil and therefore better defining what is good. And of course I’m talking about, really, the potential of the horror genre, because there are a lot of horror films that don’t do these things. It is a genre that’s full of exploitation, but the better films in the genre certainly accomplish, I think, very noble things.”
Much seems to have changed in a decade. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, while being a seriously scary movie about demonic influence, can easily be categorized as a genuine example of what Derrickson was talking about. It does indeed raise huge questions about the supernatural, about the reality of good and evil and how they push against each other.
Sinister 2? Not so much.
Instead, it feels exactly like the kind of “exploitation” Derrickson was criticizing. From the point at which the Catholic priest argues that we’re impotent to confront evil—that the best we can do is run from it—things go downhill fast. And they end with utter despair. There’s not a thing anyone can do about anything bad that’s happening as we watch family after family being murdered—by children—in some of the most mind-boggling atrocious ways imaginable.
There are no big questions left hanging provocatively in the gloomy air.
There is no carefully constructed battle between good or evil, between God and the devil.
Mostly you’re just left pondering how in the world the moviemakers came up with so many sick snuff scenes.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.