Part of what makes horror work is a sense of the unfamiliar. More often than not the most memorable examples of the genre take the audience out of their comfort zone by showing them something outside of their realm of experience. This is also why most horror sequels aren't very good. In trying to replicate the success of a prior film, sequels tend to deal entirely in the familiar. And this is what sinks Sinister 2, a boring retread where all the answers are already on the table.
Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) has run away from an abusive husband, taking her two sons Zach and Dylan (Dartanian and Robert Daniel Sloan) with her. They have into an abandoned old house that once upon a time was the scene of a grisly murder. The deputy from the first movie (still unnamed, played by James Ransome), now no longer working for the police, is still looking into murders that seem connected to the one that happened in the first movie. And it just so happens that Courtney has moved into one of those houses.
The first film focused on the father character, building its scares from the gradual discovery of all the strangeness involved in his investigations. It slowly let the darkness creep in, almost breaking the fourth wall as it revealed its true intent. This film plays with all the cards on the table, focusing more on the kids and their corruption at the hands of the main antagonist. In practical terms, this results in a movie that is mainly made up of a bunch of scenes where kids watch home videos. While the content of these videos are somewhat disturbing, there just isn't any possibility of surprise.
The film then wastes more time fleshing out the backstory of the evil force that's causing all this trouble. It's all very tedious, the characters learning things that aren't actually useful. We don't need a reason for the Bughuul to be targeting children. We don't need him to be part of some grand mythos. He was effective in the first movie precisely because of how mysterious his presence was. He was just this weird thing popping up in random videos; a shred of the unknown in what is otherwise a benign experience. The first film played with the idea of simply watching violence being a dangerous thing. Here, laid out plainly, the same ideas are somehow made less interesting.
And now he is something that has apparently existed throughout history, using convoluted, overly complicated methods of corrupting children. It isn't very interesting, and it raises more questions overall. Not helping matters is the acting. James Ransome was the comedic relief in the first movie, a twitchy presence that served to offset the grim horror elements. Placed in the center of the film, the actor can't do much to raise the intrigue. The Sloan brothers prove to be awkward presences in crucial roles, their onscreen sobling conflict ultimately unconvincing.
Sinister 2 is proof yet again that there is often little to gain from a horror sequel. Sinister was a perfectly contained story, one that functioned largely on a creeping sense of the unknown. The film and its intrigues end once all the answers are provided. This sequel never really had a chance. It has to operate with all of its cards face up I will the table, the film merely expounding on what has already been established. With everything being so familiar, nothing ever comes close to being creepy. They are all just shadows of things we’ve seen before.