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Review: Sinister

Oct. 12, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: A true-crime writer (Ethan Hawke) moves his family into a home which was the site of a brutal family slaying several years earlier. While searching his new home, he not only discovers home movie footage of the crime, but also a box containing super 8 footage of several other, similar slayings- throughout which a diabolical pattern begins to emerge.

REVIEW: SINISTER has got to be one of the most buzzed-about genre flicks to come along in a while. Fresh off it's warm reception at Fantastic Fest, SINISTER is now making it's way into North American theatres, and anyone who thinks the horror genre has been in a rut the last few years needs to check this out. To me, SINISTER is one of the most invigorating, and yes- sinister horror movies to come along since KILL LIST.


Scott Derrickson, who made a big genre splash a few years ago with THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, returns to horror with a similarly classy film that takes the familiar trappings of the genre and turns them on their head. Certainly, the found-footage thing has been done to death. However, the beat-up, scratchy old Super 8 snuff films- which are used sparingly, truly jolted me throughout- and to be sure, they're only the icing on the cake. The rest of the film ditches that format- making this an interesting hybrid.

Like many of the really good horror movies one can list off, SINISTER is a slow-burn. Don't go in expecting wall-to-wall scares, as that doesn't seen to be Derrickson's (who co-wrote with former AICN contributor C. Robert Cargill) game. Like in EMILY ROSE, he wants you invested in the characters, and to that end, his casting of Ethan Hawke in the lead is terrific. I've always admired Hawke as an actor, and while it's rare to see him outside the art-house circuit these days, he brings the same credibility to this that he would to any film, and it's refreshing to see a horror flick where the star name in the lead role isn't simply around to collect a paycheck.

Rather, Hawke helps build a strong, well-rounded lead, being a tortured author whose one bout with greatness came and went too fast, and has left him as a struggling family man (although with the stunning Juliet Rylance as his wife, I can't say I feel too bad for the guy). He hopes his chronicle of this series of grisly murders will make him this generation's Truman Capote, but suffice to say, things don't quite pan out.

Without revealing too much, I will say that SINISTER ratchets up the terror slowly but surely, with each successive super 8 movie being all the more harrowing (handily earning it's R- although the use of gore isn't overdone). Hawke's investigation plunges him deeper and deeper into a game of cat and mouse with a truly diabolical force, the likes of which he can't process. In a memorable scene opposite Vincent D'Onofrio as an Occult professor, who clues him in on the depravity of some of the history related to his findings, we get a pretty intriguing mythos that could potentially be examined in subsequent installments, but we'll see...


In addition to Hawke and D'Onofrio, the film benefits from a really strong supporting cast, with former Republican Senator (and one time presidential hopeful) Fred Dalton Thompson adding some gravitas to his brief part as a small-town sheriff, while James Ransone (THE WIRE) is solid as the initially dopey deputy that's more clever than he lets on. I should also mention the jaw-dropping musical score by genre vet Christopher Young, which adds to the vibe of the film immeasurably, and is one of the better scores of the year (so far).

Probably my only issue with SINISTER is that I felt it was maybe a shade long at times, and possibly loosing a few minutes here and there might have quickened the pace a bit. Then again, it's a slow burn, so that's probably the intention. It also takes Hawke a little too long to realize the depth of the shit creek he's found himself wading in. Otherwise, this is a pretty great little horror flick- and one that anyone who wants a good scare needs to check out.

Source: JoBlo.com

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11:38AM on 10/15/2012

Sinister

It was a good movie. A few good scares but things gets a little dumb by the end of the movie.
It was a good movie. A few good scares but things gets a little dumb by the end of the movie.
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11:05AM on 10/15/2012
Looks like Marble Hornets with a budget to me. But I guess that's not a bad thing--I'll probably go see it.
Looks like Marble Hornets with a budget to me. But I guess that's not a bad thing--I'll probably go see it.
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4:44AM on 10/13/2012
I totally agree with @HercZanzibar.
I totally agree with @HercZanzibar.
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11:21PM on 10/14/2012
Yay!
Yay!
1:28AM on 10/13/2012
Don't get me wrong, Ethan Hawke was great, the imagery was powerful and Derrickson did a great job creating tension. It just all seemed formulaic in the way every thing seemed spelled out for the audience. I kinda just felt like I was going through the motions. There was no real mystery or twist because everything was already explained to us. I was kind of annoyed that Ellison is supposed to be a crime writer who puts cops to shame but can't put 2 and 2 together when the facts and connections
Don't get me wrong, Ethan Hawke was great, the imagery was powerful and Derrickson did a great job creating tension. It just all seemed formulaic in the way every thing seemed spelled out for the audience. I kinda just felt like I was going through the motions. There was no real mystery or twist because everything was already explained to us. I was kind of annoyed that Ellison is supposed to be a crime writer who puts cops to shame but can't put 2 and 2 together when the facts and connections are presenting themselves to him. In my opinion, there was a lot of wasted potential in the movie.
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3:16PM on 10/12/2012
You lost me when you said something nice about Kill List.
You lost me when you said something nice about Kill List.
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2:13PM on 10/12/2012
Son of a bitch, Kill List, really? That movie cost me a night of pussy because it was so god awful. Seriously, when you're married and the credits roll on date night, you want to start making your way to the sack not spending the next two hours defending a website that said it was such an amazing movie. Between this and Martha Marcy whatever the fuck, JoBlo's hidden "gems" got officially banned by my wife during date night. And let me tell you, it doesn't get old being reminded every other week
Son of a bitch, Kill List, really? That movie cost me a night of pussy because it was so god awful. Seriously, when you're married and the credits roll on date night, you want to start making your way to the sack not spending the next two hours defending a website that said it was such an amazing movie. Between this and Martha Marcy whatever the fuck, JoBlo's hidden "gems" got officially banned by my wife during date night. And let me tell you, it doesn't get old being reminded every other week how spectacularly shitty those movies were. Please, if you haven't seen these movies, either watch them alone so you're the only one pissed that you sat through them, or don't watch them at all.
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+0
12:59PM on 10/12/2012

seeing it

Ive heard that this film was good. So i guess ill go and see it.
Ive heard that this film was good. So i guess ill go and see it.
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1:25PM on 10/12/2012
So, just to be clear on this--have you heard the film is good, and are you going to see it?
So, just to be clear on this--have you heard the film is good, and are you going to see it?
-2
12:59PM on 10/12/2012

seeing it

Ive heard that this film was good. So i guess ill go and see it.
Ive heard that this film was good. So i guess ill go and see it.
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-2
12:59PM on 10/12/2012

seeing it

Ive heard that this film was good. So i guess ill go and see it.
Ive heard that this film was good. So i guess ill go and see it.
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