Horror sequel Sinister 2 is a strange movie. Ghostly and sinister events are expected. Yet this film doesn't quite know what it is. It's hard to tell if the filmmakers (director Ciaran Foy and screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill) are going for a goofy, throwback feel, but it's almost like an '80s movie you'd find on cable, and that might appeal to some horror audiences.
The film, like its predecessor, follows the creepy antics of tall, ghoulish Bughuul (Nick King). He's installed in an abandoned farmhouse where some grisly murders happened. Finding sanctuary there are Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two boys, Dylan and Zach (Robert and Dartanian Sloane), hiding from her abusive ex-husband. They encounter a former police deputy (James Ransone), working as a private investigator and ghost hunter who is scoping out the house. What they don't know is that he intended to burn it down, with all the ghosts inside.
Bughuul's child ghost gang has been visiting Dylan at night, entreating him to join their snuff-film club. These ghost kids are bad news, and Dylan knows it. Whether his brother Zach fully understands is another question. They also witness their parents' nasty custody battle, which embroils the former deputy.
This isn't a very scary movie, but there are a couple of good jumps. The potency of Bughuul and the kids quickly dwindles, and the whole thing seems rather goofy. Ransone, an electric and often unhinged performer, is relegated to the kind of character who says obvious things like "what the hell am I doing here?" aloud to himself in a spooky house. Ransone appears have a bit of fun with it and even draws a few intentional laughs from his portrayal.
The most sinister thing in Sinister 2 is the domestic violence and its ripples throughout the family. Dad Clint (Lea Coco) is scarier with less screen time than any boogey man, supporting the time-tested notion that the monsters you see the least are the most horrific. The final sequence conveys a conservative message about the effects of violent imagery on children, which is itself an indictment of horror movies. If that's the case, audiences shouldn't worry: The effects of Sinister 2 won't last.