Exclusive: Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill on Sinister, Avoiding Sequel Pitfalls and More

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When Sinister was released in October 2012, we had the pleasure of chatting with co-writer C. Robert Cargill and co-writer/director Scott Derrickson about their gut-punch thriller. With the film’s home video release this week, we thought it the perfect time to catch up with the duo.

Derrickson and Cargill (read our previous interview with them here) spoke more about the mythology they created for Sinister as well as what’s been the most surprising aspect of their collaboration since they began writing the project together not all that long ago. We also heard from the pair about a potential Sinister sequel and what sort of pitfalls they want to avoid when creating a follow-up to what was by far one of the more intense horror flicks to grace the big screen in 2012.

Be warned, though; the following interview with Derrickson and Cargill does contain some spoilers so if you haven’t seen Sinister yet, fix that STAT, and then head back here for our exclusive interview with the duo.

Dread Central: So the last time I saw Sinister was back in August; I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up while watching it again at home, but man, it’s still insanely creepy. Congrats on being able to really get under people’s skin and make a great horror film that holds up upon revisiting.

C. Robert Cargill: Thanks so much for saying that! That’s really what we wanted to get out of this- to make a really good scary movie. Every single decision we made on one element of the story or another was in order to scare the hell out of you, and it’s great to hear it still has some scares even if you’ve seen it before.

Scott Derrickson: I’ve always said that a horror movies is only as good as it is scary, which is ultimately why I think Sinister succeeds- we have some great scares in there and give you real characters to care about, too.

Dread Central: One thing I wanted to ask about was some of the symbolism in Sinister, particularly the scorpion, snake and dog, and how they relate to the character of Mr. Boogie. Was that something based on real mythology?

C. Robert Cargill: We created everything for that mythology ourselves, but it had roots in real folklore stories. When we started, we had a lot of long discussions on just who Bughuul was – whether he was going to be a Pagan deity or a normal one – and we ultimately decided on Pagan so we gave him roots in Babylonian culture. I spent an entire week just doing research on everything from demons to gods to supernatural powers and used that research when we were fleshing out the character. And the dog, scorpion and snake are all associated with entities that could transfer their power into this world, which worked well with our story.

Dread Central: Have you guys been talking about a follow-up to Sinister yet considering how ripe this world is with different stories you could tell and since the original did so well?

Scott Derrickson: We have; we’ve discussed where we’d like it to do and where we don’t want it to go. Since we’re both horror fans, we’re very familiar with horror franchises, and we’ve seen what can happen if you make a sequel for the wrong reasons. There’s a lot of potential with Sinister, and we don’t want to waste that potential with a sequel that doesn’t live up to expectations.

C. Robert Cargill: This is a point I’ve made before- audiences always say they want something new or fresh, but in reality that’s not always the case. You have to have some familiarity to bring the fans in, or they just don’t get it. Take Halloween III; fans complained back then that part three didn’t have Michael Myers or a slasher running around killing people even though the producers and everyone behind it intended to take that franchise in a totally different direction. Fans didn’t care; they wanted Michael Myers even though the story of Halloween III was great on its own. Sometimes the desire of the audience can be a huge limiting factor when you’re writing a sequel.

Scott Derrickson: The Paranormal Activity franchise is a great example of keeping that familiarity while giving fans something new, particularly parts two and three. I love those movies, and I think they really delivered on those movies for the fans and even for those people out there who were expecting the same movie again and again. Those movies had a lot of great surprises but still kept true to the spirit of the original, which I feel doesn’t nearly get the credit it deserves. I haven’t seen part four yet, but I absolutely loved three.

Dread Central: Looking back at your journey of making Sinister, what would you guys say has been the most surprising aspect of this whole ride?

C. Robert Cargill: I think for me just how quickly this all turned around for us; it usually never happens this quickly. From when we wrote the script, we had a first cut of Sinister less than a year later, which is remarkable. I think also the other thing that really surprised me was just how well Scott and I took to working together. It was really natural.

Scott Derrickson: You know, I think there was this gravitational pull already in play where we would have worked together at some point regardless. We became friends first because of Cargill’s reviews; he is one of the best online critics ever, and we just built our friendship around movies. He’d send me recommendations on films I’d never heard of, and we’d just email back and forth about movies all the time. The first time we met in New York City, I felt like we were sort of separated at birth, and that was a few years before we even talked about working together. Our friendship and our working relationship has been by far the best part of this whole thing and definitely the most surprising aspect, too.

Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke (Daybreakers), arrives on Blu-ray Disc (plus Digital Copy and UV), DVD (plus Digital Copy and UV), Digital Download, Video On Demand and Pay-Per-View February 19 from Summit Entertainment, a LIONSGATE company. Directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and co-starring Juliet Rylance (Animal), Fred Dalton Thompson (TV’s “Law & Order”), James Ransone (The Next Three Days), Clare Foley (Win Win) and Michael Hall D’Addario (People Like Us), Sinister is a terrifying and intelligent new take on the found footage genre.

Ten years ago, true crime writer Ellison Oswald (Hawke) made his reputation with a best-selling account of a notorious murder. Now, desperate to replicate the success of his first book, he moves his family into a home where the previous occupants were brutally executed and a child disappeared, hoping to find inspiration in the crime scene. In the home, Ellison discovers a cache of terrifying home movies, unwittingly opening the door into a nightmarish mystery.

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with director Scott Derrickson
  • Audio commentary with writers Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
  • “Living in a House of Death” featurette
  • “True Crime Authors” featurette
  • Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary with director Scott Derrickson

     Exclusive: Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill on Sinister, Avoiding Sequel Pitfalls and More

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