The first Sinister movie was released in 2012 and since then the film has gathered a massive amount of following. It’s villain, Buhguul, has become iconic and fans can’t wait to see him back in action. I had an opportunity to interview the director of Sinister 2, Ciarán Foy. Foy is a very energetic and passionate director. It definitely showed in his great work with Sinister 2.
So what does it take to direct an amazing horror movie? Find out here.
Louis Love: From the beginning of the movie you set a tone. How important was that to you?
Ciarán Foy: With the first movie, I think Scott ( Derrickson ) wanted a heavy sense of atmosphere. It’s good to have that atmosphere and directing with a sense of dread. All my favorite movies do that. I thought that’s something that the first one did very successfully. I knew that getting that tone right and getting that tone was of most importance but, in this one I’ve also got to balance the fact that we have a heavy emphasis on the kids. Also the guy that was (in many ways) a comic relief from the first movie is now in a central role. You have to have the beats that come naturally from him. Which are going to be beats of levity and beats of comedy. Balancing the humor and that dark humor with what people expect from a movie like this. Which is that sense of dread, that sense of a heavy eerie atmosphere, and the scares of getting that balance right on top of this drama that it’s built upon was tricky. I knew that we’d have to nail it to get it right.
Louis Love: How important was it to keep characters from the first film into this one to connect them?
Ciarán Foy: I didn’t write this script, Scott Derrickson and Robert Cargill wrote the script. They felt that we absolutely needed some sort of chain to link film one with film two. Not to spoil anything for anyone that hasn’t seen the first film but Deputy So-and-so is the only person that survives that movie. There wasn’t a lot of choices in terms of who to bring back. He was always an audience favorite. The idea that they gave him a central role (I thought) was very brave and was exciting. He’s not your a-typical horror movie hero. He’s very much the audience. He’s as scared shitless by what he’s seeing and doing as we are watching it. In spite of himself he wants to do the right thing. I think that’s why we find him endearing. I was glad, I was excited that he was back.
Louis Love: You have the twins, Robert and Dartanian Sloan. How did you choose who played this type of twin and the other type of twin?
Ciarán Foy: I observed them when they first came in to read for us. I first saw them on tape. Terri Taylor is my casting director. She’s burdened with the hard task of finding twins. One of the ways I found my kids in Citadel was in looking in places that you wouldn’t normally look for kids. Rather than going to looking for kids who have agents and managers ( and all that kind of stuff we looked in), I found most of my kids on Citadel in a local martial arts school. What you get, are kids that have that sense of discipline and focus but they also feel like kids. They’re not overly theatrical. We did the same thing on this movie. The boys (the Sloan brothers), I think they’ve acted in a couple of school things but they play hockey and that’s where we found them. They have that discipline and that focus but also they are real brothers so they have that rapport. Before I observed them I sort of felt they were answering each other’s sentences and it was the “sort of doing” that you’d expect from twins. It felt like two of the same character. I felt that Robert , his look seemed more vulnerable to me than Dartanian. Trying to choose one that would be the alpha twin, the bully, whatever. I thought either of these guys would work, but I felt that visually Robert had a bit more of a vulnerable empathetic look.
Louis Love: One thing I was wondering, during the scenes like where the kids are watching the scary videos, is that actually something that they’re looking at when filming or is that added after?
Ciarán Foy: It’s added after. We have to do that for a couple of reasons. On the first Sinister they shot those 8mm movies I think a couple of months ahead of the actual shoot so it was cut together, developed, and Ethan Hawk could actually watch it on a screen. The reason we couldn’t do that, apart from the fact of having kids watching this stuff. Was each of the kills this time around had some sort of visual effects elements to it, whether that’s environmental with the snow or whether that’s creatures like the alligator. The alligator one for instance, we shot those actors against blue screen so obviously we couldn’t project that in front of the kids. Each of them had some work that wasn’t finished until later in post. Every movie that you see projected was added afterwards.
Louis Love: How do you guys come up with the ideas of the kills?
Ciaran Foy: That’s probably more of a question for Scott Derrickson and Robert Cargill. Each of those kills were in the script when I read it. I will have to credit their sense of minds with all of that stuff.
Louis Love: Was there anything cut from the film that we could expect on DVD maybe?
Ciarán Foy: There’s a couple of scenes. I don’t want to spoil anything. I will wait for the DVD. There’s not a lot. The same with the first Sinister. We get such a tight schedule to shoot these things. This movie had 30 days. When you have 30 days and a cast of 7 kids . With children they can only be on set for basically half a day. It’s an incredibly tight schedule. You really need to know exactly what you’re shooting. You need to almost have the scene cut in your head before you get to set because you can’t shoot it from 5 to 6 different angles. There’s not a lot of fat on the bones. There’s a couple scenes that I think people are going to be excited about when it finally comes out on DVD.
Louis Love: One thing that many horror films overlook is character development. I noticed in Sinister 2 there’s a lot of character development. So you actually care about the heroes or even some of the villains. How important is that to you?
Ciarán Foy: It’s the most important thing. I think that if you don’t care about the characters than you’re just not going to be invested in the story. If you’re not invested in the story than the scenarios are only half-worked and the terror you’re asking the audience to feel is going to feel superficial. I think that out of all of my favorite horrors, it’s something that I tried to do on Citadel and something I remember from the first Sinister as well as if they all have very credible performances. They treat the drama as earnest and real as you would in a regular drama. They treat the drama real, they treat the performances real. When you’ve got characters that are well written, well developed, and they’re being performed by good actors. Then to the audience, they just feel very relatable and real. When you’re asking people then to believe in something otherworldly or to invest in the terror or the scares. It’s exponentially more effective when you care about the characters. It’s all amplified. For me, that’s the most important thing, to have the character development, have the drama, feel real, and then the rest is gravy.
Louis Love: Since the first Sinister, Bughuul has become an iconic figure among horror films, how was it working with him? Is he a bit of a primadonna now? [ Laughing ]
Ciarán Foy: [ Laughing ] No, you couldn’t find a sweeter guy than Nicholas King, who plays Bughuul. The first time I ever met Nicholas, he was in the full Bughuul makeup. I didn’t actually meet him in human form until much later. From this really intimidating looking makeup comes this tiny sweet voice from beneath it. You’re like, “Hang on, this is Bughuul?” Nicholas is super! He’s a stunt man so he’s very used to being able to evoke character with the movements and body postures ( and all that kind of stuff). It was a real pleasure working with him. It was kind of heartbreaking sometimes because he’s such a nice guy and in that whole makeup you can’t see a thing. It was quite amusing to see him being led onto set by people holding his hands and stuff because you can’t see him. Then you put the camera on him , put the lights on him, and it’s like straight away you’re like, “Yeah this guy’s iconic!”
Louis Love: If you could describe Bughuul, the character, how would you describe him?
Ciarán Foy: The character – He’s a puppet master. A kind of a specter in the background that’s manipulating things. I think his foot soldiers the ghost kids, do the luring for him. They do the manipulation into ordaining other kids into becoming a disciple of his. He’s more of an ever-present entity. That’s something we strove to do. Even in the scenes where Bughuul isn’t physically there. Bill Bose (the coaching designer). What we wanted was in the design and the architecture of the environment to elude to Bughuul in the background. We looked at Bughuul for quite a while and we both felt that the silhouette of his eyes have a very unique kind of- It’s almost like a triangular side. We ended up using that shape in the background in a lot of places in the movie. Nobody should overtly notice it, but I think it has a subconscious effect on the audience. That his eyes are ever watching. That was fun.
Louis Love: What are your horror influences? What made you decide, “Hey, this is what I want to do!”
Ciarán Foy: I grew up on a diet of Spielberg ,Cameron, and all that kind of stuff. I’ve always been attracted to the genre as well as horror. Those are the guys that made me want to be a filmmaker. I think all your favorites are dancing around in the back of your head no matter what you’re making. Then specific to each project, I’ll re-watch some films that I feel are aesthetically or tonely close to what I’m trying to achieve. For Citadel, I watched Jacob’s Ladder a lot. I watched the Brood a lot. Whereas for this movie I wanted to see really cool credible kid performances so I watched the Devil’s Backbone and movies like that. In terms of the atmosphere of something overbearing and ever-watching, I watched the Mothman Prophesies. We were lucky to get the guys that did the music for that to do the music for Sinister 2. I watched a lot of movies like that. The Exorcist, obviously watched the original Sinister again, I watched Mighty the Hunter for lighting references , and that kind of Twilight Zone type film atmosphere. Those were probably my main influences.
Louis Love: Fans of horror seem to be among the minority in the mainstream as far as movie goers are concerned, yet the fans are really, really passionate. Why are fans of horror so passionate?
Ciarán Foy: It’s probably one of the best questions that has been asked. It’s something I’ve thought about long and hard myself. I don’t have a definitive answer. I was talking on this podcast recently about how horror filmmakers tend to be some of the most grounded, nice, and funny people you can meet because I’ve traveled to a lot of film festivals especially with my first movie. I’m always taken back with these people who spend their days creating some really disturbing content and they seem like some of the nicest people in film making that I’ve met. I’ve met directors (and stuff ) and they’re not the same. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s something to do with, I’m paraphrasing here, but Peter Jackson once said something. It was before he made Lord of the Rings and he’s been asked, “Why are you so fascinated with all of the death and carnage?” And does that mean that he’s secretly has fantasies about these kind of things? He just laughed at the interviewer and said that everyone has a B side to their brain. Everyone has a dark side to their brain and I get to exercise mine on screen. He said it’s the sweet little people that shriek at the sight of blood that are more likely to stab you in your sleep. I sort of know what he means. I think maybe there’s something in that, that translates to horror fans as well . It’s like they see it for what it is, which is a kind of a thrill ride. Hitchcock describes it as when a mother covers her face with her infant . In front of her infant she covers her face and then takes her hands down and says, “Boo!” At first the infant looks terrified but then it realizes it’s just the mom and then it starts laughing. I think that in a way that’s what horror films are like for adults as well. It’s just what we recognize it for. It’s also a weird kind of healthy quality to be able to look at that side of life. To look at things like death, the Macabre, and just accept them as a part of something healthy in that. Maybe the fans just feel that camaraderie together. I’m not quite sure, I’m sort of guessing an answer right now, it’s a really good question.
Louis Love: My last question here is I saw an interview with you and you expressed that you were a “geek.” As a geek we’re always looking into the future and we want to know what’s coming next. August 21st we’ve got Sinister 2, what’s next for you after that? Is there any talks of a Sinister 3, which I want to be there, I’ll be there on the first day to watch it!
Ciarán Foy: [ Laughing ] Cool. The answer to your second question is going to be answered pretty quickly depending on how this movie goes. I think as long as there’s an appetite for the Sinister universe they’re going to keep making them. In answer to your first question, I’m developing another horror film that would shoot back in Ireland. I’m also developing a science fiction. I can’t go into depth on either of them right now. I think there might be an announcement maybe in the next week about one of them, but that’s what’s taking up my time right now.
Here’s the official synopsis for Sinister 2:
In the aftermath of the shocking events in Sinister, a protective mother (Shannyn Sossamon of Wayward Pines) and her 9-year-old twin sons (real-life twins Robert and Dartanian Sloan) find themselves in a rural house marked for death. James Ransone, who portrayed the concerned sheriff’s deputy in Sinister, will be reprising his character in Sinister 2.