Sinister is a rare example of a film that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Sinister is a
rare example of a film that does exactly what it says on the tin. It might not always wrap everything up
in a neat little bow but from start to finish it is a film that creeps up your
spine before whispering terrifying stories in your ear to chilling
True crime writer
Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) hasn’t
had a hit book in years.
Determined to change his fortunes he moves his family, without them
knowing, into the house of a family who where hanged from a tree in the back
yard. All died except for the
youngest daughter who went missing.
Whilst unpacking his office Ellison discovers a box of home movies in
the house’s loft. What he soon
discovers is each movie shows a series of mysterious serial killings
culminating in the events that took place in the very house he now lives
in. With a local Deputy (The Wire’s James Ransone) helping him,
Ellison soon discovers there is more to these murders than meets the eye.
writer-director Scott Derrickson
returns to the genre he made his name in, having directed wonderfully
unsettling The Exorcism Of Emily Rose,
with aplomb. Sinister might lack
in gripping plot but it more than makes up in genuine scares. And certainly banishes from memory the
horrors that Derrickson inflicted on us with The Day The Earth Stood
While the ‘found
footage’ genre shows no signs of abating, Sinister puts a clever spin on
it. We watch the ‘footage’ with
Ellison while his story unfolds in normal cinematic narrative, allowing
Derrickson to quietly manipulate the audience rather than trick them with shaky
cameras glancing round corners.
Instead, Sinister forces you to peer into the darkness, listen to every creek
of the floorboards and reel in terror as things scurry just out of sight.
honing in on the dying aspect of gore in horrors, Sinister often shirks away,
with Ellison biting off more than he can chew, from the true horror in the
‘movies’ to allow the mind to conjure infinitely more terrifying images. The only slight flaw is Derrickson’s
use of score which at times bombards the senses when an eerie silence could
have been utlisised to greater gasping levels.
Hawke does a
solid job as the increasingly obsessed and always unraveling Ellison. His gaunt
face always adding to the ghostly atmospheres of the house while Ellison’s inability
to pull himself away from the mystery is always believable in his hands.
While it does
peter out towards the end, the climax doesn’t quite give you the hide behind
the cushion you desire, Sinister is nonetheless an exercise in slow-burn
tension. As long as the likes of Ti West (The Innkeepers), James Wan (Insidious) and Derrickson keep creating
genuine scares then the horror genre is in the right hands. All be them cold and sinister