As a big fan of horror films, I’m happy to see that we’ve gone away from the slasher flicks of this genre. Now my favorite scary movie is Halloween, the 1978 slasher flick that revolutionized all slasher flicks, but movies of that style failed to live up to that classic. Somewhere down the line the people behind those films thought that it was best to include loads of blood and gore in place of what was used in earlier horror films, and that kind of took the fun out of it for me. Movies like Sinister bring back some of those things that were left behind. They want to scare you and make your heart skip a beat. Going into it, I was just hoping it would at least deliver a little bit of that.
In Sinister, Ethan Hawke stars as Ellison Oswalt, an author who’s just moved into a new town with his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance), his son Trevor (Michael D’Addario) and daughter Ashley (Clare Foley). Despite having just moved into the neighborhood, he isn’t exactly well liked by some of the people who live there. That’s because he’s not just an author, he’s a true crime author who’s there to write about a murder that occurred there. He’s known to cast a negative light on the various cities in which he visits, and this is rumored to happen where ever he goes.
During his latest stop in a Pennsylvania town, Ellison is looking to write about the mystery of an unsolved quadruple murder that involves the disappearance of little girl. It looks as if whatever took place remains up in the air as the cops feel they’ve done all they could. There’s not much for anyone to go on, and in order for him to proceed he goes into his own investigation of the crime in hopes of finding clues that the local police may have overlooked during their investigation.
After moving into the house, Ellison receives an early breakthrough when he stumbles upon a box filled with home videos. These videos help him to learn and understand some of what took place in the serial murder that he’s researching. That looks to be like a good thing, but he also runs into something that appears to be more sinister than he could have ever imagined. Now, not only is the best-selling author trying to find out what happened to this group of people on this gruesome night, but he may also need to learn about this eerie danger in order to protect his family.
As we progress through the story of Sinister, we come to discover that this horror film is probably more of a mystery. The majority of the film follows Ellison as he watches the home videos, attempts to discover who’s behind the murders and find out what else might be going on. Every now and then, you’ll have an incident or an event that happens that plays up on the potential horror that may be lurking in the background. It’s a style that some will like, but others may not if their sole purpose is to see a scary movie.
Another thing that is easily noticeable in this movie is the amount of darkness surrounding most of the scenes. Even in the day time everything looks dim and gloomy. Whenever they’re outside,it’s kind of like there’s always a constant black cloud over the heads of everyone, and whenever they’re inside, it looks like no one knows how to turn on a light switch. This is obviously done to darken the mood of Sinister and I think they accomplished that goal.
Based on the way they use the villain and the constant darkness, it’s clear that they want to creep you out. When it’s night, you can’t see what’s right behind the characters and you never really know where and when something is going to jump out. It does add to the suspense that many might be looking for and it makes everything feel more eerie than it might actually be.
Of course, Ellison is watching the videos in a darkened room. This is where the audience sees much of the violence that takes place in the film. This segment of Sinister gives somewhat of a twist to the found footage horror films that we’ve been seeing since The Blair Witch Project made its debut back in the late 1990’s. Unlike the previous films done with this style, the author in the movie is actually watching the footage with us, so it’s kind of like we’re getting multiple movies at once.
Because I don’t want to risk spoiling Sinister for you potential viewers out there, I won’t really talk about how they use the villain throughout the film. I’ll say is that they use Ethan Hawkes character, his investigation and the people who help him to let us know parts of who this killer might be. The mysterious killer is used in a way that fits what I described in the paragraphs up above. If you use your imagination, you can probably figure it out.
While Sinister isn’t very scary to me, I did find it to be serviceable as far as having the ability to freak some people out by bringing in and using enough mystery and scares to get some would be viewers to enjoy it. To me, the craft of the film is what I liked the most. Director Scott Derrickson uses a few common tricks, but adds a new spin on some of them to tell this story. None of this stuff if groundbreaking or anything, but when you mix it in with everything else, Sinister is nice to watch.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Michael Hall D’Addario
Film Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: October 12, 2012
Distributor: Summit Entertainment