The horror sequel "Sinister 2" revisits the concept of a family-slaughtering demon with a hold over children and a penchant for grainy films of the killings. But now that we know the story's grim logic, the first film's quietly haunted uncertainties — and Ethan Hawke's sturdy portrayal of a selfish, befuddled true crime writer wracked by grisly voyeurism — are sorely missed.
This time, the doomed house is in rural Illinois, and the family in peril is a mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and two boys (real-life brothers Robert and Dartanian Sloan), one of whom is actively recruited by dark spirit Bughuul's ghost children to join their homicidal gang. This behind-the-curtain tale of supernatural peer pressure is a pretty weak replacement for the original's simple, mysterious riff on "The Shining." It might be why returning screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill also gave Sossamon's character a thinly manipulative story line involving an abusive husband (Lea Coco), and brought back the first film's sensitive deputy (James Ransone) for mythology exposition duties and predictable heroism.
With such busy plotting, all director Ciarán Foy can do is juggle points of view and hope this version's 16-mm murder footage (including death by crocodile) meets fans' expectations for snuff-flick eeriness. They're suitably icky, sure, but nothing about "Sinister 2" comes close to the feel-bad ode to literally and figuratively dark interiors that distinguished the title-earning original.
MPAA rating: R for bloody violence, bloody and disturbing images, language.
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.