Sinister's Creepy Pool Scene Was Quite The Ordeal For The Actor Playing Bughuul [Exclusive]

Director Scott Derrickson is known for jumping around different genre sandboxes. His work ranges from science fiction ("The Day the Earth Stood Still") to Marvel superheroes ("Doctor Strange"), but arguably his most effective films are those that exist within the horror sphere. After all, Derrickson's latest film, "The Black Phone," is one of 2022's biggest hits. Even though it's been well over a decade since I last saw "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," I find it difficult to shake Jennifer Carpenter's haunting performance.

If there's one film of Derrickson that gives me the creeps more than the others, it undoubtedly has to be "Sinister," which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. It's the kind of horror movie that you can't quite shake from your memory. Even a scientific test deemed "Sinister" the scariest movie ever made.

The menace of "Sinister" unveils itself when true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) discovers a box of Super 8 reels in the attic of his new house, along with a projector. But instead of finding the happy memories of the folks who used to live there, Ellison discovers an unexplainable collection of snuff films, in which the families are brutally murdered by an offscreen force.

The group family hanging, in addition to the lawnmower massacre, are the two tapes that rattle my bones the most, but the swimming pool reel has an interesting story behind it.

Bughuul takes a dip in the pool

In a comprehensive oral history of "Sinister" from /Film writer Ryan Scott, Derrickson talks about the infamous reel entitled "Pool Party '66." Prior to this reel, Ellison has seen a family strung up by a massive tree in the backyard, and another being incinerated in the backseat of a car. But this is the first time he lays his eyes on the evil entity known as Bughuul.

We first catch a glimpse of Bughuul through the dark ripples of the water in a pool, a subtle image in the background of a grisly murder sequence involving the drowning of an entire family (it wasn't until a rewatch where I noticed that the family tied to the pool chairs are still kicking when they get dragged underwater). With this being our introduction to the mysterious figure, Derrickson knew he wanted to make this something special. Derrickson told /Film:

"I knew it needed to be something really scary and I knew that I was going to try to make it scary by how much you don't see it. That was the whole idea of putting it in a pool the first time you see it. I think that image of the first time that you see Bughuul underwater in the pool is actually really horrifying and the freeze frame on it, then the film burns up, so you don't even get to look at it for very long."

Although that image of Bughuul isn't on screen for very long, the actor playing him went through a lot in order to get the shot.

Being underwater came with some breathing difficulties

Bughuul was played by Nick King, whose stiff posture and expressionless face helped bring the frightful figure to life. Of course, right before Ellison can get a better look at Bughuul, the Super 8 reel goes up in flames. But this won't be the last time they interact with one another.

King spoke with /Film about how transforming into the creature that lures children into a murderous trance was quite the challenge, especially with the heavy makeup he had to wear. "The breathing was super restrictive on it so it constantly made me tired," says King. When it came time to do the pool scene, however, the makeup came with a different challenge:

"I was underwater for about three hours. They fed a breathing hose into the pool for me to stay underwater. Just before filming they would take it out and we stuffed a little one gallon in my sleeve so I could take a few last breaths before the shot started. We realized early on that if I were to continue to go in and out of the pool, everything would fall off my body so we chose just for me to stay in the water."

To the actor's credit, his endurance — however tough to pull off — pays off in the finished film. It makes for an unforgettable image. 

Nick King was happy with how the film turned out

When all was said and done, King was ultimately happy with how "Sinister" turned out. And once he was able to see the film on the big screen with a crowd, he knew it would be a hit:

"Going into it I was unclear of what the outcome of the film would be. I actually remember about 30 of my friends and I went and saw the movie opening night. I believe everyone enjoyed it and it's a memory I will remember for the rest of my life, even though the movie theater made me buy my own ticket [laughs]."

Sure, King went through a difficult process to get an underwater shot, but the craziest thing about all of this is that he had to pay for a ticket to see his character scare the bejesus out of a Thursday night crowd.