Sinister (2012)

SinisterA review by C J Dee

Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Scott Derrickson, C Robert Cargill
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley
Other notable appearances: Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransone
Running time: 110 minutes
Watch this if you liked: The Conjuring, The Ring, Drag Me to Hell
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5 stars

Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) is a true crime writer who had 15 minutes of fame 10 years ago. He has dragged his family from house to house near recent crime scenes in the hopes of recapturing that fame. This time, unbeknownst to his wife Tracy (Rylance), he moves them into the actual house where four family members were murdered and one is still missing.

While moving in, Ellison finds a box of home movies labelled innocently enough — ‘BBQ’, ‘Pool Party’, ‘Lawn Work’ etc. When he begins to watch them however, he finds a collection of snuff films. Investigating further, in the name of research for his book, he finds a demonic image in each of the films.

Once Ellison begins watching the films, strange things begin to happen in the house and with his children. Can he figure out the secret on the films or will his family end up on the cutting room floor?

I watched Sinister on the suggestion of fellow DMZ reviewer Ross. It came up when we were discussing the horror movies that have really rattled our cores. I must admit that, when I saw the promotional image and read the blurb, I wasn’t convinced.

However, upon watching Sinister, I was pleasantly surprised. And occasionally unpleasantly surprised, but that comes with watching horror movies.

The overall plot was derivative of several sources, but the overall effect worked considerably well. There where scares when needed. There was tension. There was a creepy ass supernatural being whose face was haunting in its simplicity.

The visual effects in Sinister were simple yet effective. The darkness of the film visually both worked for and against it. It gives the viewers the suspense of not knowing what is happening, but it also leaves you staring at a black screen with the odd hint of movement for several moments at a time.

Ethan Hawke’s performance was pretty great as far as most horror movie acting goes. He made the character relatable enough for the viewer to care what happens to him. However, the rest of the characters seem mostly incidental: the devoted wife, imperilled family and helpful outsiders.

Sinister is by name and by nature a sinister movie with an ending that will stick with viewers long after the credits roll. Only recommended for lovers of supernatural horror or a good case of the heebie jeebies.

‘Get the kids. Pack the car. We have to leave! GO!’