I’ve had quite a busy month and I realize that I haven’t been able to keep up with the recent new releases in October. There were a number of films that I really wanted to see, but my schedule (and my mental block) didn’t allow me to go out and review them. One of those films was the horror film directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and by the producers of "Insidious" entitled “Sinister”. I thought perhaps that I should just wait for the film to come out on video but a friend of mine (Trashcanman) convinced me (via email) to go out and see it. My expectations weren’t particularly high when I went, and sometimes having no expectations does help one in a film’s enjoyment.
The film begins with a super 8 film footage where is family of four are standing under a tree. They have nooses tied on their necks and bags over their heads as something unseen cuts off the tree limb that was acting as counter weight, it then sends the family up, strangling them. The first scene certainly sets the film’s groundwork and expectations as we then find ourselves months later, as a true crime novelist named Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) moves in to the same house with his wife Stacy (Juliet Rylance) and their two children (Clare Foley and Michael Hall D’Addario). Ellison intends to write about the disappearances of a child, much to the dismay of the townsfolk and the local sheriff. When he finds a box full of super 8 films, Ellison thinks that his new book may become his biggest one yet. But it seems that his investigation into the backgrounds of the murdered family have taken him on a path of a supernatural entity called Bughuul.
“Sinister” is one of those films that can be considered a slow-burn. The screenplay puts all the focus in Ellison’s character as he digs deeper into the story of this real-life murder. The direction wisely and carefully develops his character as someone who has developed an obsession with this true crime. This obsession envelopes him as he watches the different super 8 films in the box; each film presents clues dating back to the 60’s and has one common imagery in them. Derrickson plays the film as something different and yet familiar; he uses this one character for the audience to ask questions and find clues in the development of the story. Much of the film relies on the ‘creep factor’ rather than real scares. These super 8 footages certainly has some unnerving imagery that is sure to immerse the viewer in its groundwork. The more Ellison goes in deeper, the more odd occurrences appear to happen around him, that involves those around him and his family.
Yes, the film does a fine job in drawing in my own curiosity. In many ways, it presents a cautionary tale about one’s obsession for recognition, fame and fortune, that could prove to be the catalyst for some doors better left unopened. The screenplay and the direction were pretty capable in inducing the needed ‘creep factor’ before it goes into the jump scares. Derrickson was subtle in the presentation in his approach. Super 8 footages, night terrors, bumps in the night and one common imagery that may well put everything together. It was able to bring the viewer into the depths of the investigation itself, and it allows a foothold in the story. The atmosphere was also spot-on. The film looked very creepy and the scenes were developed well into the screenplay. “Sinister” certainly looks and feels like a horror film, even though some devices weren’t necessarily original, the creepiness were competently timed and well-placed.
I guess if the film had a flaw, it would be the fact that the characters weren’t all that original and even though the performances were able to be compelling, the mechanics weren’t all that different from other horror movies. It was all play by play, an obsessed writer going into some secrets, a concerned wife and kids experiencing some odd occurrences were pretty standard. The supporting characters such as the deputy (James Ransone) and Professor Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio) aided in the development of the plot. But honestly, what really gave the film a needed boost were the credible performances of the main cast. Ethan Hawke took much of the film’s burden and he was able to connect with Juliet Rylance. Much as the devices weren’t all that unique, the main cast sold the film’s premise.
American horror hasn’t really impressed me this past few years. In a decade filled with remakes, stereotypes and re-issues, it was refreshing to see a horror film that did not rely on the ‘slasher’ formula, CGI blood and gore and horny teenagers. Yeah, “Sinister” did replace the teen bit with another staple and this is a family in danger, but it made the film more effective. Scott Derrickson was able to create a subtle horror film. “Sinister” is a film built to generate suspense and a sense of dread for the characters that it kept me curious up to the final act. The final act was a satisfactory resolution to its groundwork and it also introduced a possible new horror antagonist in the form of a pagan deity. Hey, it tried to be different, and was able to make an impression on me…and sometimes, that is all we can ask for in a horror film.
SINISTER Supernatural/ghost/demon stories seem to always strike a chord with me for some reason. That whole things are there but you can't see them/things go bump in the night thing just gets me. I have always loved things like "Unsolved Mysteries" and "A Haunting" for just that reason. So when these types of movies come out I am always looking forward to seeing them. The best thing about these … more
Star Rating: Sinister breaks no new ground as a supernatural horror movie, but it’s wonderfully atmospheric, it has a couple of really good scares, and it mixes its shocks, special effects, and makeup work with a surprisingly engaging mystery. As is the case with most mysteries, however, the buildup is much more satisfying than the explanation, which in this case seems rather arbitrary and speculative. I, for one, would have preferred a more psychological … more
This is one of the best horror movie I have seen in a while, especially from here in America. I have really been enjoying foreign horror films more so the past couple of years but this one is very very good. Written by first timer C. Robert Cargill and director Scott Derrickson this movie has everything you could want from a horror flick. The best thing though in my opinion is the atmosphere of this dark movie. I also like that movie builds and doesn't rush anything. A lot of good movies have been … more
"Sinister" is not a perfect horror movie. The groundwork far exceeds the quality of its pay off, but this is only because the build up was impeccably done. It stands as one of the better supernatural thrillers out there. See Full Review here.