Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sinister (2012)

Ever since I watched Misery and later read the book, I was afraid of becoming the writer in a horror story. They never seem to catch a break. Even artists and writers in Lovecraft’s fiction usually come to bad ends. Is it because writers tend to have open imaginations that cause them to be susceptible to the uncanny and horrific? Or is it because they are so darn needy that they people get sick of their whining and decide to off them? But I kid my fellow writers… a little. So it was with some trepidation that I watched a story about a writer who discovers a terrible secret in his new home.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a struggling writer who has just moved his family to a new home. He got the house for a steal and his hoping to write a blockbuster true crime book based on a murder that happened in this new town. Well more specifically in the back yard of the new house he just moved his family into. And more specifically, the whole family was hung from a tree in the back yard and the daughter went missing. So yeah Oswalt isn’t a little creepy for doing that.

During the move Oswalt finds a box in the attic that contains a super 8 projector and some home movies. He pops one of them in, and watches as the previous family has a good time… and then witnesses their death! The rest of the films area similar showing happy families being brutally killed. Oswalt finds clues uniting the deaths and starts digging deeper. With this source material he knows he’ll have a best seller for sure! But ominous things start happening. His son starts having night terrors. Oswalt starts hearing and seeing strange things in his home. And then he finds evidence that these murders may be tied to a cult worshiping a child-stealing creature. Is this delusion starting to break Oswalt’s grip on sanity or is there something more Sinister at work?

Good Points:
  • Atmospheric and filled with a sense of impending doom
  • Hawk gives an excellent performance as the complicated Oswalt
  • Those murder films are disturbing and creepy as hell

Bad Points:
  • The overall mood is so dower and dreary it may turn some viewers off
  • Works as a slow burn, those looking for quick thrills will be disappointed
  • The revelation of the reason for the murders just didn’t quite click for me

This is a dark film, both visually and thematically. The whole movie is saturated with a shadowy creepiness that is unsettling. Hawke does a fine job creating a man we can sympathize with, even if we don’t like him. But what works is the combination of the mystery of the murders with the sense of doom that hangs over Hawk and his family. By moving into this house he has invited the evil into his family and that evil begins working. While I found the reason behind the evil to something less then compelling, I will say that the overall it is a disturbing and creepy ride. Not a fun horror film, but certainly a chilling one.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. At least by the early 80s, if not before, it has been almost impossible to surprise viewers of horror films very much. ("Orphan" was a rare success.) Whatever the twist is, pretty surely we have seen it before, and when there is one or more missing victims the scriptwriter telegraphs where to look. That's not to say such movies can't be effective anyway. "Psycho" is still scary even though anyone who hasn't lived his whole life under a rock knows it's Norman in the wig. A maniac with a knife is still scary, as can be occult activity in the attic. This one sounds like pretty good Halloween fare.

    1. You've got a good point. During my research of this flick I didn't notice that some folks liked the revelation a bit more than me. But really that is a minor thing.The movie has a great atmosphere and Hawk is worth watching.

      I need to check "Orphan" out. I remember that one having a pretty good buzz.

  2. Yeah, I enjoyed Orphan too, although for me it really didn't pick up until towards the end. I kept wanting to strangle that little adopted girl.

    A lot of these recent dark haunted house movies are getting so much alike I can remember what I've seen and what I haven't. I rented Insidious the other day, and remembered when I started watching it I had seen it previously. Sheesh. I'm not sure what it is about current horror, but it sort of rubs me the wrong way for many different reasons. Mostly if it's horror there should be some suspense, dread, something scary or whatever in it rather than just gore or jump scares. I rented It Follows not too long back as well, and though it was okay, the longer I thought about it afterwards the less sense it made. Not exactly a glowing review.

    1. Yeah I watched "It Follows" and like it quite a bit. There was an unexplained element to it, but I found it made the whole film a bit creepier. Not a perfect film but I found it very enjoyable, especially compared to some of the other modern horror flicks out there.

      One that I don't get is "The Conjuring". People went bananas over that one, but my wife and I just didn't get many chills from it. I will admit that possession horror films rarely get me frightened. I'm too busy wondering why a demon would waste his powers on possessing some nobody in a rural house somewhere, when he could possess someone with power and influence and do some real damage. Are demons that stupid? :)