Sinister should be best of season
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 00:10
Sinister is one of the few movies that will crawl under your skin and stay there well after its credits roll.
Directed and written by Scott Dickerson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still), Sinister focuses on true-crime novelist Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), who moves his family, unbeknownst to them, into a Pennsylvania house that was the scene of a murder he wants to center his latest novel around.
While Oswalt observes the property, he comes across a mysterious box of Super 8 film in the attic. The first reel, entitled “Hanging Out,” shows the previous owners of the house playing in the backyard before switching to a scene in which all members of the family, except for one of the children, are hanged from a tree.
Oswalt watches all of the reels, each titled in a way that eludes to how a different family in a different house is murdered, the most disturbing being “Lawn Work.” In each case, every family member is murdered except one child who is declared missing. Also, in every roll of film, a figure, later determined to be the pagan deity Bughuul, the eater of children, is seen either in the bushes, in the pool or in a reflection.
Sinister’s story is the most intriguing horror plot since The Cabin in the Woods and the most bone-chilling since Insidious. The first 20 to 30 minutes drag, but the back-story seems necessary to avoid the clichéd mess many horror movies with good potential tend to become. The movie is pegged at an hour and 50 minutes, but seems like it could go on for another half an hour and not seem overdone.
With the movie being long for a horror film, it would be easy to think Sinister would become exhausting like many films in the genre tend to. The night scenes are some of the most tense and nail-biting audiences will see, but Dickerson does a good job of interspersing comic-relief throughout the film allows the viewers to laugh and take the edge off. This makes watching the night scenes much more bearable and enjoyable.
While the movie is scary, it does not have many of the classic, jump-out-of-your-seat moments. There are a few times it will get a viewer to scream and jump, but Sinister does a better job of slowly, almost torturously, unveiling its horror to the point where the audience will leave dents in their arm rests.
There are only a few downsides, one being that the film could have been fleshed-out a little further. After the major plot-point is revealed, the film quickly races to the climax without providing any more much-needed context.
Also, as expected in most horror movies, the acting is not necessarily Oscar-worthy. Hawke’s acting in the lead role is the most convincing audiences will probably get out of the genre today, but the rest of the cast has its ups-and-downs, especially Juliet Rylance, who plays Oswalt’s wife, Tracy. Rylance falls into the stereotype of the overacting horror actor for much of the film, but comes on strong for a more genuine performance as the film goes along.
With those two gripes out of the way, Sinister should be the best horror film released this Halloween season. With Paranormal Activity 4 just around the corner, this film provided originality that not many horror movies give audiences today. While it was clearly influenced by some movies like The Shining, The Amityville Horror and The Ring, Sinister is able to make its own mark in a genre that badly needed new blood.