A murderous collective of ghostly pre-teens menaces a new family in this desperate horror sequel

“I’d be better if I didn’t live where so many people were killed”, mutters Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan), the youngest character in Sinister 2, hitting the nail on the head in a manner you might generously call semi-intentionally funny.

Though not literally a charnel house, the rural manse where he’s hiding out with his fugitive mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and bullying brother (Dartanian Sloan) happens, through sheer bad luck, to be the location where the family from the first Sinister met their sticky end. 

If this weren’t enough, the ghosts of various dead children keep popping up to demonstrate what horrors they, in thrall to the spectral villain of the franchise, inflicted on their own nearest and dearest. Their chosen medium is Super 8 footage, and these grisly snuff tableaus involve crocodiles, electrocution and trapped rats.

Like other Blumhouse Productions such as Insidious and The Purge, Sinister was a whopping hit on its tiny budget, but it well and truly exhausted its battery of ghoulish conceits by the end, and was unavoidably stuck with a bogeyman called Bughuul. You could frequently swear the bump-and-creak effects in this rotten sequel are the literal sounds of barrels being scraped. The film is both pedantic about its absurd rules – only when decamping to their next home does every family get what’s coming to them – and promiscuous in casting around for inspiration: when one of the brothers starts gormlessly waving a scythe around, we’ve gone full-on Children of the Corn (1984).

A moody score by the reliable tomandandy (The Strangers) and Sossamon’s bright, sympathetic performance are the only elements of restraint on show. Otherwise, with some seriously sketchy child acting having to carry the day, and adult characters musing on “the aesthetic observance of violence” like pretentious film-studies grads, all the film has to fall back on are its sporadic jump scares, and these quickly pall.

Worst of all is how Sossamon’s brutish husband (Lea Coco) holds up the human-threat end of things – the film’s presentation of domestic abuse is lurid, unserious, and tastelessly tacked on.

To recap, Bughuul’s entire evil masterplan involves a pre-teen undead filmmaking collective reliant on their retro equipment working perfectly: it’s time someone took the cameras away, and not just from him.