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Sinister: Successfully Creepy Horror

  • Clare FoleyEthan Hawke...
  • HorrorThriller
  • Scott Derrickson
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Sinister: Successfully Creepy Horror

Disappointingly, the majority of ‘horror’
films these days have been
primarily short of bite and
share very few, if any at all, real moments of terror. With the
exception of The Cabin in the Woods – where the build up to the memorable
finale left the audience at the edge of their seats – there isn’t as much oomph in the world of horror as there once was.

Thankfully, Sinister, though
occasionally transparent, manages to hold its own and deliver some of the
most disturbing imagery in recent cinematic history.

True-crime writer Ellison
Oswalt (Hawke) – desperate to re-live the fifteen minutes of fame received from a
novel he wrote ten years ago – moves his family to yet another town where an
unsettling crime recently took place. The
promising new case, which still remains unsolved, revolves around a family that was mysteriously hung from a tree in their own backyard. But that’s not the only thing that left the
investigators scratching their heads; the family’s younger daughter, Stephanie, disappeared
right after the gruesome murders took place. 

Ellison’s wife, Tracy (Rylance),
daughter Ashley (Foley) and son Trevor (D’Addario), are not
so pleased about their relocation, so Ellison decides it’s best to keep
them in the dark about the fact that they will be living in the same house
where the crime was committed.

Soon after, Ellison discovers
something strange in the attic; a mysterious cache of old 8mm films accompanied
by a small projector. Sensing that he might be onto something, Ellison quickly settles
into his newly built office and starts viewing the films.  Each film plays out like a pleasant family
memory, until something awful happens.

With the help of
a nameless local deputy (Ransone) and  college professor Jonas (D’Onofrio),
Ellison discovers a distressing common thread.  As he is putting the pieces of the puzzle together, the strange
noises in the night and the return of his son’s horrific night terrors take
their toll.

Director and co-writer, Scott
Derrickson, along with the penning support of C. Robert Cargill, build the perfect
foundation of a horror film.  It starts
out well and as the main characters get introduced, things look hopeful. The
family is extremely likable and their relationship and breakfast banter comes
off as genuine. However, once the strange noises and bumps around the
house start, the film stumbles.

With its blemishes aside, Sinister
does provide some truly bloodcurdling moments.  Well edited, the story carefully crafts its
dread, drawing the audience in with great ease.  Another thing that makes Sinister stand
out is the mesmerising score by Christopher Young.  The paralyzing pulsating rhythm, mixed with a ton of bass matched perfectly.

The film gets some real substance from its leading man; Hawke gives a convincing performance as a dad and a
deteriorating writer. He connects with the material and triumphs beyond the
genre’s usual suspects.  The supporting
cast also does well; Rylance is strong and she successfully engages her husband
in a couple of riveting husband-wife arguments, while 
D’Addario gives a persuasive performance as a child tormented with night

Even though the audience
might feel robbed of an explanation as to why this is all happening, it still
manages to make your spine tingle.
Sinister is highly disturbing.

Like This? Try

Insidious (2010), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), Children of the Corn (1984)

360 Tip

Writer C. Robert Cargill's inspiration for the film came from a nightmare he experienced after seeing The Ring – in which he discovered a film in his attic depicting the hanging of an entire family.

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