Friday, January 8, 2016

Worth Mentioning - Bloody New Chapters

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody catches up with a couple supernatural horror franchises.

SINISTER 2 (2015)

Back in 2012, I was very pleasantly surprised by director Scott Derrickson's Sinister, a movie I initially had no interest in. I have very much been looking forward to the sequel that was announced soon after Sinister's successful run at the box office, but I didn't go see Sinister 2 when it was released into theatres back in August solely because I wanted to save it to watch with friends, including the blog's own Priscilla. Months after its release, a viewing has finally been taken in.

Busy developing Marvel's upcoming Doctor Strange movie, Derrickson handed over the directorial reins to Ciarán Foy for this one, but did stay on board to write the script with his Sinister collaborator C. Robert Cargill. Their story for Sinister 2 picks up very soon after the events of the first movie, with actor James Ransone's character Deputy So & So, an awkward and unassuming man who was a fun side character in the original, getting promoted into the lead, but still not receiving a name in the credits. This time he's Ex-Deputy So & So.

So & So has figured out exactly what sort of dark forces he came in close proximity to last time. He knows of the ancient evil called Bughuul, a.k.a. Mr. Boogie, and he knows how the long line of murders committed in the name of Bughuul has gone down. A family moves into one of the previous murder sites, 8mm film recordings of past murders are discovered and viewed, the family moves out of the home, and once they're in a new home one of their children kills everyone in the family before being claimed by Bughuul. That child is missing, never to be found. They're not on our plane of existence anymore. With this knowledge, So & So has set out to stop any more murders from occurring by burning down all of the Mr. Boogie murder houses.

So & So's arson spree runs into a complication when he finds that one of the murder houses is now inhabited by single mother Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two young sons, Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan as Dylan and Zach. A trio on the run from Courtney's abusive husband Clint (Lea Coco).

While So & So tries to figure out a way to bring this situation to a peaceful conclusion, he's being supernaturally stalked by Bughuul, Courtney and the kids are being menaced by Clint, and the boys are being visited every night by the corrupted spirits of children who have killed for Mr. Boogie in the past. These children show the boys the 8mm family snuff films, aiming to recruit one of them into their ranks. Wanting them to kill Courtney, Clint, and their sibling.

Sinister was told entirely from the perspective of an adult character, Ethan Hawke as a true crime writer investigating the murders. Sinister 2 takes the intriguing approach of following both an adult trying to stop these things and a child being lured into Bughuul's clutches. We see exactly how the corruption works, with some disturbing turns along the way. It makes sense that we would get this further glimpse behind the curtain, but the otherworldy kids are already bantering with the new prospects within the first 20 minutes... Seems like that comes a bit too early.

One of the creepy highlights of the first movie were the "home videos" of the murders, eerily photographed clips with nightmarish imagery. We see more of them in the sequel, but they weren't quite as effective for me this time around - they are dark and cruel, perhaps even more painful, but a bit too elaborate, and I didn't really like that animals were the murder weapon in a couple of them. The one involving snow, however, was very troubling.

So & So and Courtney are decent leads, and the moments when So & So tries to stumble his way through the early stages of a romance with the beleaguered mother are fun to watch, but they're not quite as captivating as Hawke's tarnished character was in the first.

Being set primarily at a farm surrounded by a cornfield, Sinister 2 builds up to a climax that reminded me somewhat of another killer kid franchise, Children of the Corn... A fact that I appreciated, as a fan of the Corn movies.

While Sinister 2 is a step down from its predecessor across the board, I found it to be an adequate sequel. I'm kind of surprised that the concept has already lost so much steam by part 2, but I suppose the sequel is less effective mainly due to familiarity. The story of Bughuul and the home videos was extremely creepy as we were being introduced to them, but the mystery is over and now we know exactly what to expect to see and what's going on. It's impossible to recapture the feeling the first Sinister delivered. Sinister 2 is still a very entertaining horror movie, but I'm not sure how well the series will hold up if they decide to make more sequels.


Given the way Insidious: Chapter 2 ended and the success the film enjoyed at the box office, there was never any doubt that there was going to be a third installment in the franchise. The only question was when it would arrive and what the story would be... and I don't think anybody was expecting the approach that Chapter 3 takes.

Although medium/paranormal investigator Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) was killed at the end of the first Insidious movie, at the end of Chapter 2 it appeared that she was going to be perfectly capable of helping out her partners Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) from the afterlife. The sequel ended with the trio taking on a case, and Elise looking at something with an expression on her face that left fans pondering what exactly she was seeing... "What is Elise looking at?" is not a question that gets answered in the third movie, because it's not a sequel. It's a prequel, an origin story that shows the first time Elise, Specs, and Tucker ever met and worked together.

The situation that brings these ghost busters together is the haunting of a teenage girl named Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) by The Man Who Can't Breathe, a nasty spectre that lurks in the ventilation shafts of the apartment building Quinn lives in. Elise is the old pro reluctantly brought out of retirement to work the case, Specs and Tucker the young upstarts who are called in because they have a popular YouTube channel... and when Tucker enters the picture an hour in sporting a Mr. T hair-do and a Masters of the Universe T-shirt featuring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, it's my favorite thing about the movie.

Chapters 1 and 2 were both directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring), the first being a relentless onslaught of scares, jumps, and jump scares, the second retaining the style while changing tone a bit, bringing in more comedic relief from Specs and Tucker. Since Wan was busy working on Furious 7 when Chapter 3 came up, writer Leigh Whannell took over the helm this time around, and did a fine job with his feature directorial debut. Like 2, 3 retains the established Insidious style while having its own unique tone. While Specs and Tucker do provide comedic moments again, they have less screen time. The element 3 heightens is the emotional drama. Characters are dealing with the deaths of loved ones - Quinn is  heartbroken over the recent loss of her mother, and we also see the impact the loss has had on her father and brother; Elise is hurting from the suicide of her husband. 3 is lighter on both the scares and the comedy, while being heavier on the sadness.

In the first film, the primary antagonist was a demon with a very iconic look. The sequel delved deeply into the story of a killer who had possessed one of the lead characters. In the prequel, The Man Who Can't Breathe is almost a complete non-entity. I really didn't find anything interesting about this guy, either in what he does or how he looks, so he was a major letdown following the Lipstick-Face Demon and the Bride in Black from the previous films.

The actors do fine in their roles (and the movie earns bonus points for having Dermot Mulroney as Quinn's dad), but the family at the center of the action isn't as interesting as the beleaguered characters that came before them, either.

I don't think Insidious: Chapter 3 is a bad movie by any stretch, it provides 90 minutes of spooky entertainment, it's just slightly less entertaining to me than its predecessors were. I'm still on board for anything that Whannell and Wan might want to show me in the Insidious universe.

So what was it that Elise was looking at at the end of 2?

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