Movie Review: Sinister

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransone, Nicholas King, Vincent D’Onofrio

Rated R for disturbing violent images and some terror, Running time 110 minutes, Horror/Suspense/Thriller

Compare to: The Ring (2002), The Possession (2012)

Where to start? It’s almost as though the last reviews on recent Horror movies could be copy and pasted an we could just be done with this one. The director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose creates another watchable film that seems to borrow from his brother and sister films to create something slightly different…but only slightly. So the good news is that this film is watchable, but is that all a movie needs to be for you to see it?

Judging by the numbers already, Sinister is going to make some money; but what you’re going to get is a movie better than the awful The Apparition and better than The Possession…but those weren’t great either. Though if the inch by inch progression of quality in these films is to be noted, by the end of the year if anything else in the genre comes out, we might actually have a really good thriller.

Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) and his family have just moved into a new home. The kids hate it of course, and the wife is dealing with it well, all for the sake of helping Ellison finish his new “True Crime” novel. He hopes to recreate the success of a book he wrote fifteen years earlier and to do that, he’s actually moved into the house of the people whose death he’s trying to solve.But things get much more interesting after Ellison actually finds video of the family’s death, among other deaths that involve a missing child in each case. The strange events that occur after may just be the death of Ellison too.

To start off, Ethan Hawke is good. Much like Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Possession, in a world of bland cliches and “Whaddaya know? It wasn’t really a ghost, it was a CAT,” Hawke still helps create an atmosphere that’s as believable as it is unsettling. It’s easy to root for him, wanting to regain the glory of his former youth while hopefully solving these mysteries is something we want to happen for him as well as our own curiosity. His scenes with either the apprehensive sheriff (Thompson) or the helpful, goofy deputy (Ransone) are fun to watch. As he gets along with the latter but not the former and the dialogue is catchy, not stale or forced, something movies in this genre have a bad habit of being.

I could also tell you that this is the most entertaining film Summit has released this year. Gone, Step Up 4: Revolution and Man on a Ledge not being the highest of quality while next month’s Twilight is sure to be…like the other ones.

The old camera footage is creepy as well. Watching bizarre, ritualized deaths on screen (along with Ethan Hawke’s reaction mirroring our own) is probably the most effective aspect of the film. Each time a new film is introduced, a cringe is sure to be induced. Director Scott Derrickson’s use of amplified screams in moments of terror is actually put to good use here, rather than the normal orchestral jab, so to speak. You might jump a couple times due to real scares and not just the fake ones. One scene I won’t spoil wasn’t so much scaring as it was creepy was particularly enjoyable as the scene is simply let loose rather than forced on us.

The lesser moments of this film is the body that it’s actually composed of, rather than it’s individual parts. We’re given the same opening as we are in every other PG-13 Horror film that involves a family and at some point, scary kids. “We’ve just moved in, hope nothin’ bad happens” when you are, of course, going to see what bad things happen. I could go further into detail of other examples of generic blandness but I guess it could be, to a degree, spoiling.

The villain, who I won’t say too much about so as not to give anything away, is one with potential but also one that’s never really delved into the way it should. It leaves too many questions that aren’t answered by our filmmakers in a movie that goes by the logic “It’s evil. Evil is bad,” and doesn’t bother going much further than that. We’re given a background, but no particular motivation or point.

It was something of a relief to see an R rated Horror film, as it may involve the creators getting their way and not watering down a story in hopes that jerky little teens will pay their parents money to ruin the movie for everybody else. Yet we got a slightly more violent PG-13-worthy film. All this being said, anyone with the potential to be scare by these kind of films will be freaked out by this one. Connoisseurs however, might want to look elsewhere.

Grade: C

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Sinister”

  1. The advent of the PG-13 horror movie is yet another dreaded hindrance to the connoisseur’s search and hope for a decent, terrifying movie.

    Family Demons had me a little on edge, satisfying some of my grisly needs, but it seems there’s nobody willing to commit this kind of edge into a larger budget.

    • Taylor Says:

      Hm…Family Demons…might need to check this out. As for the PG-13 bit, couldn’t agree more. I’m actually looking forward to the sequel to The Collector coming out at the end of November, despite the problems of the first one. I’ll get my fill of blood then.

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