By Landon Evanson
Let’s face it, when it comes to horror films, we identify with the final girl. We believe ourselves to be that person, that we’d be resourceful and courageous in the face of adversity, or even life and death.
While a scant portion of us may find success under such circumstances, the vast majority would be hesitant, unsure and perhaps even a bit clumsy.
That’s why comic relief exists in horror to begin with. Not all pictures that fall under the genre’s purview utilize said tool, but many do, and they do so as a way to relieve tension. The presence of a Randy (Scream) or Shelly (Friday the 13th Part III) serves as cool down to the slasher workout, slowing our heart rate before the treadmill resumes its inevitable incline.
Characters crafted for the purposes of calming laughter can be much more, though. In a way, some of them are us. They are exactly what we would be if thrown into a situation that was chaotic and violent, because the bulk of us are not Jason Statham or Gal Gadot, as much as we’d like to think we are.
Bringing us to James Ransone.
Throughout Scott Derrickson’s Sinister (2012), audiences delighted in the awkwardness and relative ineptitude of Deputy So and So (James Ransone). The young officer appeared to be a clueless, small town cop who was oblivious to everything around him. He brought a copy of Kentucky Blood to Ellison Oswalt’s (Ethan Hawke) home hoping for an autograph but forgot a pen, fumbled through conversations, and even deftly pointed out that snakes don’t have feet.
There was nothing about Deputy So and So that communicated “astute cop,” but damned if he wasn’t lovable and determined to help Oswalt research his latest book. It goes without saying that Sinister fans were glad of two things when a sequel was announced for 2015 – that they’d get more of Bughuul, and that Ransone’s Deputy So and So would assume the lead role.
It didn’t take long for that excitement to wane, however, because Sinister 2 left much to be desired. Truth be told, it’s hard to replicate the magic of a film like Sinister, and though Blumhouse gave the follow-up the twist of a peek behind the curtain at what the chosen child had to endure, and certainly upped the ante regarding the filmed death scenes, it just didn’t measure up to the tense pacing of its predecessor.
Sinister fans will remember that Deputy So and So had made to point to announce that he had a criminology degree and could recognize connected cases when he saw them in the original, but never actually witnessed those skills in action.
And then in one magical scene early in the sequel, it happened.
The former deputy was doing some snooping for signs of Bughuul at a country house when state troopers showed to snatch Courtney Collins’ (Shannyn Sossoman) children from her and into the hands of her abusive, yet powerful husband. So and So, however, demonstrated that recognition he’d mentioned in the previous film and stepped in to put the kibosh on the power play.
So and So asked to see the order, but the commanding officer immediately went into intimidation mode and asked him to step aside in a way that sounded more like a command. Unlike the behaviors we had grown accustomed to, So and So didn’t stammer or buckle, he was prepared for such a barrage and quickly inquired about the sheriff’s whereabouts, ready to unleash hell once the state officer noted that they didn’t have a sheriff.
“I know. I know. I can read the car. I know that you’re state troopers, but I also know that child custody transfers are the responsibility of the sheriff. And I can tell you from experience that the only reason that the sheriff isn’t here today is because he either doesn’t know about it, or he doesn’t want to know. So, you want to call him? You know what? I’ll call. Don’t worry about it.”
State Trooper Shermer (Howie Johnson) demanded that So and So put his phone away or he’d throw him in the back of his cruiser, but So and So was locked and loaded for that veiled threat, as well.
“Are you saying that you’d arrest me?”
“In a heartbeat,” Shermer responded defiantly.
“Well, then I should probably inform you that I was arrested a few years ago on a capital offense,” referring to his arson of the Ellison home in the hopes of stopping Bughuul. “It was a major news story. All the charges were dropped, but if I were to be arrested again, that’d be pretty big news. Yeah. Whew! I would hate to be the uniform that was trying to make a child abduction look like a custody transfer. State cars and everything? That just might be the worst day of that guy’s life. Sir.”
Shermer stared in displeasure, but only momentarily, because he knew that he’d been had. However, when the children’s unpleasant father (Lea Coco) questioned why he wasn’t on the receiving end of what he was accustomed to getting – what he wanted – the trooper simply said that the bluff had been called and he wasn’t losing his job over illegal nonsense.
The rejected father did some trash-talking, this isn’t over, blah, blah, blah; but for one shining moment, we saw Deputy So and So not only act like an officer, but one who possessed poise under fire and was measured in both deed and dialogue, with a dash of badass.
Theatre-goers were left smirking not just at So and So’s act of bravery, but out of pride, for lack of better terminology. Make no mistake, recognizing part of ourselves in Ransone’s character, we were proud of the former deputy for standing his ground and being the selfless protector we expect police officers to be.
It goes without saying that So and So demonstrated copious amounts of courage and know-how as the film progressed, but for that one flash in Mrs. Collins’ yard, Deputy So and So was no longer a bumbling cop with no confidence, he was a former officer who understood the limits of the law, and possessed a distinct knowledge of right and wrong.
We saw ourselves peaking, that singular moment that could never be taken away from us. We recognized that despite shortcomings in our professional lives, there are those occasions when we say what needs to be said when no one else in the meeting is willing to be honest with the boss, and those points in time far outshine the mishaps.
Sinister 2 may not have been a glowing sequel, but it’s worth a watch because Deputy So and So’s moment was as brilliant as a summer sunrise.