Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone.
Running time: 1hr 50 mins.
Directed By: Scott Derrickson
“Once you see him, nothing can save you”. With this tagline and from the producers of successful supernatural horror’s Insidious and Paranormal activity, we know it’s not going to be a simple watch. Director Scott Derricksons previous horror exploits (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and Hellraiser: Inferno), have shown he has previous history with this genre and this did not disappoint.
Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) is a crime writer looking to recapture the glory years of a successful book he wrote over ten years ago. Moving his wife (Rylance) and two kids into the home of where grisly multiple murders occurred, he plans to research the murders for his new book. Upon finding a cache of super 8mm home movies that uncover possibly evidence of a serial killer, Ellison finds himself drawn into a dark investigation that uncovers more than he can handle.
From the opening minutes of this film, you get an idea of the horror contained within the movie, as a silent home video clip of four hooded people are hung from the neck from a large tree, accompanied to twisted unsettling music. This imagery and audio set the tone for the rest of the movie. Sinister is a twist on the found footage genre that currently seems to be quite popular (V/H/S, Paranormal Activity). But what is different about this is that it is done Inception style, as Oswalt unwittingly subjects us as the audience to more grisly murders, each contained on the 8mm Super 8 reels. Every murder containing helpless people being stabbed, burned and worse.
Derrickson creates a beautiful palette of dark colours here, creating a claustrophobic, tension filled scare fest! There is a lack of blood flow in this movie, but as its all blacks, greys and dark colours, by the time we see the splashes of red it sticks out very sharply. The reported budget for this movie was a tiny 3million dollars by Hollywood standards and with a return of over 77 million dollars represented a box office smash for the director. The sense of foreboding danger never leaves as the movie continues, each reel revealing more about what is going on and providing moments of spine tingling terror.
Oswalt finds a connection between each of the reels and befriends a local deputy who assists him in his investigation of what actually happened. Meanwhile in his quest for fame Oswalt neglects his family, and his blind selfish drive to get back to where he had been ten years ago with his best seller Kentucky Blood.
At one point in the movie, Oswalt is faced with a decision, to do the right thing or carry on in the hope of achieving fame, and without ruining it too much; it’s safe to say he made the wrong decision. And with that decision, he delves deeper into the darkness of what the reels contain and what it sets free. Vincent D’onofrio turns in a lovely cameo as an occult specialist who helps Oswalt find out more about the supernatural element that’s contained embedded in the film’s reels.
“Bad things happen to good people, but they still need to have their story told”. Oswalt deals with the continuing deterioration of his family home life by continuing to research the murders on the reels, but soon the claustrophobia for impending terror tightens and we see the villain of the piece, a supernatural entity known as Mr Boogie, or Bughuul as he was known in ancient times. An eater of children, this creature manipulates and tricks to get what he wants, and usually that means tragedy of grisly proportions.
The music in this movie adds to the quality of the storytelling, as each found footage movie acts as its own little movie within the confines of Sinister. You know as soon as he switches on the machine and the film starts to roll, that the eerie music starts up and it’s only a matter of time before the next horrific murder is revealed. I found myself listening to the soundtrack for a few weeks after watching the film as it left a lasting impression on me, and I think without that soundtrack it wouldn’t have had the same impact.
If I could sum up this movie in a phrase it would be “Less is more”. Small budget, big scares, all centred on a murder house, this excellently grips the watcher and doesn’t let go of them until the end, causing numerous jump scare moments. My only complaint is that it is slightly predictable, and most hard-core horror enthusiasts will have figured it out long before the final scene. It also leaves a nasty taste in the mouth at the end. When I had finished watching it I really was disappointed (storyline wise). But as a whole this movie achieved what it set out to do, provide a thrilling horror, full of suspense and intrigue, using the movie watcher’s own imagination in filling in some of the gaps. Hawke turns in one of his best performances in recent memory as a man desperate for fame, broken by failure and eager to succeed at any cost. The ending left things open for a sequel and I for one would love to see this enter a franchise territory.
What I liked? : Suspense, Thrilling, good story, the lawnmower scene, creepy soundtrack, being caught off guard with the jump scares, great Ethan Hawke performance.
What I didn’t like? : Not enough bloodshed for a horror, movie ending, not enough Bughuul, predictability, family not fleshed out enough for my liking.
Al’s rating: 8.5/10