BACK in 2012, Sinister arrived on the scene, starring Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt, the true crime writer with a terrible habit of moving his unsuspecting family into houses where grisly murders had taken place.
It was a genuinely creepy movie, which saw a suitably haggard Hawke bearing the brunt of the load as he scrambled to solve a mystery involving ritualistic murders captured on video tape and an ancient evil Pagan god, called Bughuul.
Around the same time, Dublin-born director Ciaran Foy quietly released his first feature length film.
Citadel was a dark and impressive horror debut about an agoraphobic man battling teenage hoodlum demons, which despite its small distribution, was very well-received.
One of the fans of Citadel was the writer and director of Sinister, Scott Derrickson, who tweeted Foy to ask if he would like to direct the Sinister sequel.
Sinister 2 sees James Ransome take the lead role, reprising a bit part he played in the original. He is now an ex-cop who is working as a private investigator, still trying to solve that very same mystery that Ethan Hawke unwittingly stumbled into, in the first film.
While the original saw Hawke desperately trying to save his own family from the curse of Bughuul, this time, Ransome is trying to save his love interest (Shannyn Sossaman) and her twin boys from the child-munching deity.
Ransome’s ex-deputy isn’t traditional hero material. He is the kind of bumbling, good-natured twit who just wants us all to get along.
His character brings a kind of off-beat pace to the film, with his quirkiness lending a comedic element that was almost completely missing from the original.
But the cost of having such a light-hearted lead becomes clear through the lack of tension. Partly, this is down to a diminishing sense of mystery, too.
The supernatural elements of Sinister 2 become wrung out to the point of exhaustion. We are never truly scared for Ransome as he creeps around in the dark as he’s so well-mannered and resilient that we are sure he will bounce back from any demonic trauma.
Bughuul gets much too much screen time, and it feels like we know the gang of creepy dead kids hanging around Sossaman’s house on first name terms.
That is not to say that nothing works well here. There is good on-screen chemistry between Sossaman and Ransome, and some of the most frightening moments come courtesy of Sossaman’s abusive and estranged husband (Lea Coco), who is on a mission to capture his family and force them to return to his redneck normality.
Perhaps the best thing to come from this film will be a higher platform for Ciaran Foy. Horror sequels tend to be ropey territory, and Sinister was a particularly tricky film to follow – both because of its success, and because there is not a lot of story left to go on.
Yet, despite the crumbling building blocks he inherited, Foy has managed to create and maintain some basic structure. You get the sense that Foy’s strength lies in developing his own material, and his next project is already rolling: a big-budget horror set in Ireland that he is writing and directing.
Sinister 2 may be a superfluous film, but it’s a solid showcase for Foy. While it doesn’t come close to the tension or creepiness of the original, it does have some very likeable characters, features some disturbing old super-8 scenes, and is jam-packed full of jump scares, so if the itch needs to be scratched …