Here are a couple of horror movies from different continents and different spectrums of the genre. I had great hopes for both, but only one of them delivered.
Sinister 2 is the sequel to the excellent 2014 nail biter starring Ethan Hawke as a true crime writer who moves his family into a murder house and discovers an old movie projector and a case full of super 8 movie reels. The reels all show a family getting murdered in some kind of ritualistic act, including the family in the house where he now lives. With the help of a local deputy (James Ransone), he discovers that an evil spirit named Bughuul possesses a child in a family and has them kill his/her family. But it only occurs after they move out of the murder house, creating a trail of murder houses throughout the country. The evil spirit then steals the child into his nightmare realm, creating another long list, this one of missing children.
It’s a nice twist that leads to a horrific ending to the first Sinister. With Hawke and that cast eliminated, it’s possible that this franchise by Blumhouse could carry on forever, if they were to find a way to keep each installment fresh and original. Unfortunately for Sinister 2, it is neither.
Picking up after the end of the first film, Shannyn Sossamon stars as Courtney, an abused wife/mother who escapes her terrible husband with her twin 9-year-old sons, Dylan and Zach (real life brothers Robert and Darnation Sloan). They are put up on at a friend’s place, a big country house with a church on the property. It doesn’t take long to realize that this house is another murder house where a child ritualistically did in his family. Each night, Dylan is visited by a group of the lost ghost children (Bughuul’s stolen spirits) and shown the old murder footage. The leader of the pack is Milo, and he’s trying to turn Dylan into a killer. But Dylan isn’t the only one seeing dead people; Zach does, too, and he begins to grow jealous at the attention being given to his brother.
As the midnight visits continue, Ransone, returning as the deputy (although now unemployed), comes upon the country house. He’s taken it upon himself to put an end to the trail of murder houses by burning them down. When he comes upon Courtney and the boys, he knows that he can’t burn down their house, nor can he let them move to another place for fear the curse will carry on. A budding romance between the deputy and Courtney implies that things may work out, until her dickhead husband shows up with the police and forces her and the boys to move back home.
These are the general plot points, but I’m not giving away too much. There’s also a twist in Bughuul’s story when we learn how far back the curse goes and how the rules get changed regarding the movie projector. This piece of the story feels like a blatant attempt to keep the Sinister movies showing up in theaters for years to come. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a period film made someday showing the rise of Bughuul.
The first Sinister was written by C. Scott Cargill and Scott Derrickson and directed by Derrickson. The two returned to write the sequel, but directing duties were handed off to Ciaran Foy. The new director doesn’t have the same touch as his predecessor. Most of the scares don’t really deliver and the horror in this movie feels rather predictable. It’s not entirely his fault; the script fails to live up to the first. I never felt that Ransone and Sossamon were fully invested in their parts, either. Both are excellent actors, but neither manages to sell this premise the way Hawke did in the first one. In the end, Sinister 2 had more eye rolling moments than shit my pants ones, making it a major letdown after the excellence of the first.
Hailing from New Zealand, Deathgasm is an over the top gorefest that recalls the early work of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. First time director Jason Lei Howder, a visual efx artist who incidentally worked on Jackson’s Hobbit films, pushes past the boundaries of good taste and outrageousness with scenes that include possessed humans vomiting gallons of blood, revving chainsaws being shoved into the orifices of raging demons, and the film’s heroes fending off the demons with a double dong dildo and anal beads. Did I mention that Deathgasm is a touching coming of age film about individualism, heavy metal and first love?
Milo Cawthorne stars as Brodie, a displaced teenager sent to live with his fundamentalist uncle and his family. Brodie is a metalhead and worships bands I’ve never heard of. This makes him an obvious outsider in the conservative town where he’s made to live. Besides the ridicule of his classmates, Brodie must endure the abuse of his cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith), a star jock and complete asshole. One afternoon, while combing through some heavy metal LPs at a record shop, Brodie meets Zakk (James Blake), a fellow metalhead from a broken home. The two become fast friends and form their own metal band, Deathgasm, with a couple of D&D nerds. The quartet plays some awesome, soul crushing riffs.
During an afternoon getting into mischief, Brodie and Zakk break into an abandoned house only to discover one of their idols, heavy metal singer Rikki Daggers, living in seclusion. Daggers is protecting the sheet music to an ancient metal song, which he hands off to the boys and tells them to protect with their lives. After some research, Brodie learns that the music is actually a hymn written to summon a demon, Aeloth the Blind One. Pushed too far after a vicious beating by David, Brodie gets Deathgasm to perform the hymn. In doing so, they unwittingly bring upon the apocalypse. People tear their eyes out, feast on each other’s flesh and spew blood into the streets. The fate of the world depends on Deathgasm to find a way to drive back Aeloth, if they don’t kill each other first.
Deathgasm took me back to the gorefest horror movies I loved as a teenager. The incentive to scare you is ever present throughout Deathgasm, but the movie is also a ton of fun and in some places poignant. Howden has written characters that are authentic and you easily care about. The young cast really delivers, including Kimberley Crossman as Medina, the girl next door with mad axe wielding skills. Numerous times throughout the movie I thought, “if John Hughes had made a blood soaked horror movie, this might be it.” If ever there was a movie that deserves to become a cult classic, it’s this one. Any horror fan (and teen movie aficionado) should be proud to have Deathgasm in their collection.