By BRUCE DENNILL
Sinister 2 / Directed by Ciaran Foy / 16HLV 6
The Last Witch Hunter / Directed by Breck Eisner / PG13 5
There’s no way a film like this should be any good. It’s another franchise with a scary-looking visage on the cover and a number after the name, in which the same evil force turns up in successive episodes and does things to different characters. Ooooh, etc. But there are a number of facets in its favour. First-off, the myth around which the narrative is based is the bogyman, the nameless, child-scaring spirit common to dozens of cultures around the world. He’s given a more specific name here (Bhughul, a demon) but his intent is the same: use impressionable, insecure kids as a portal to access a community in which he can cause havoc. It’s also not, despite repeated jump scares and other horror movie clichés, badly made. Shannyn Sossamon is a better actress than such a platform requires, and as the mother of the children in danger here, she is the piece’s serious, realistic (well, relatively) foundation. James Ransone as the returning cop from the first film is strangely convincing, an apparently under-powered quiet sort whose experience comes in handy. Very dark visuals – in every sense, as black seems to be the director of photography’s favourite colour, and there are some disturbing video sequences – mean this is absolutely not for kids, but when considering the mythology, Sinister 2 an interesting watch for older viewers.
Been here, done this – a lone soldier of some sort is forced by circumstance to fight evil, making repeated sacrifices on behalf of others he never gets the chance to completely engage with. In The Last Witch Hunter, Vin Diesel plays Kaulder, a medieval witch hunter who is cursed to live forever, watching all those he loves over the centuries die as he continues his quest to rid the world of witches. The piece is, unsurprisingly, riddled with CGI, but it’s effectively combined, adding regular thrills. Diesel does his usual bit, out-brawning most of his opposition while still being gruffly accessible to those who take the trouble to get to know him. Scottish actress Rose Leslie plays a good witch (as always, there’s a hierarchy that these films develop as they go – it’s unnecessarily convoluted in this case) and provides respite from the usual roll call of Hollywood starlets in throwaway rolls in such big-budget actioners. There’s enough threat implied in the possible presence of the witches and their cohorts to create an edginess that balances out all the magical silliness.