James Ransone didn’t expect to be the lead in “Sinister 2.” In the first movie, from 2012, he was the funny guy — the bumbling deputy who serves to temper the sadistic grind going on elsewhere. But he was one of the few survivors, and he wound up reviving his character in the sequel, now proving more helpful than distracting to a mother (Shannyn Sossamon) trying to fend off both an abusive husband and a ghost after her kids. Still most famous for playing Ziggy on the second season of “The Wire,” and recently seen in “Tangerine,” Ransone is chatty and open to talk about horror and the unusual influences on his “Sinister” franchise character.
You actually spend most of “Sinister 2” away from the horror, engaged in a domestic disturbance drama. Particularly with genre films, do you need something real to get you interested?
Unless I can find something I can relate to, I’m just going to be wandering around like a lost idiot. So far as the supernatural element, as an adult that doesn’t freak me out. Real horror movies to me are Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” because that could totally happen. An Alzheimer’s documentary — now that’s terrifying.
I’ve read you’re picky about studio films…
That’s not true. I am, totally. I am not on the studio list. Studios want nothing to do with me. They won’t hire me, for some reason. The first one I ended up doing because the character in that movie is the comic relief. I would go into work and it wasn’t like I was in a horror movie. I would just do the funny scenes and go home.
What were you drawing from?
This sounds so ridiculous, but in the first one the influence on the character came from “The Chris Farley Show.” [Ed. The sketch where Chris Farley would be a nervous interviewer who would ask people, like Paul McCartney, painfully dumb questions.] Everything I’m doing in the first “Sinister” is a straight ripoff of that. It’s 100 percent me trying to do Chris Farley. I grew up on Theater of the Absurd comedy, like “Mr. Show” and Louis C.K., when he was a fill-in guest on “Conan.” All of a sudden they make me the lead in the second one, and I think, “Oh god, there’s no way I have enough gas to keep that going for an entire movie.” What I’m doing in “Sinister 2” is my version of the Tramp from “City Lights.” I know it’s weird to pull from Chaplin to put in a horror movie. I just happened to be watching that movie before we started filming, and I was like, “He’s a sweet guy being ostracized and cast out, and all he wants to do is help this woman.”