Written & Directed by Scott Derrickson
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance and James Ransone
Found footage helps a true-crime author realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity.
Sinister is nothing if not appropriately named. I hate it when horror movies dumb it down, and I promise there is no diluted version of this film. We’re all so tired of saying found footage with every other horror review we write. I’m just glad Sinister has a legit reason to utilize it, relying on the genre as a supplement and not the meat of the story. Ellison Oswalt (Hawke), a true crime novelist, moves his family into a new home in hopes of pursuing his blockbuster novel he believes he’s due. His true crime hit, Kentucky Blood, was his only success; his latest books tanked, giving him incredible drive in his pursuit of a bizarre missing persons case. The first scene of the film is a static shot of the home’s former inhabitants dying from a grisly hanging. The mother, father, young son, and daughter flail hopelessly for their lives before finally going limp with death’s arrival. What an evil way to start a movie. It sets the tone for the evil nature of the film, letting us know early that anything goes.
In the course of moving in, Ellison finds a box of old home movies in the attic. Upon reviewing them, he realizes he’s cracked the story of a lifetime. Driven and enthusiastic to put the pieces together, Ellison dives into the project headfirst. He finds his mental and emotional moxie pushed to the limit. Hawke is perfect as the obsessed and conflicted author living less than content in his former glory. His fragile marriage gives the supernatural element something firm to rest upon when it comes to the real issues he faces on the path to his dark discovery. His teenage son has severe night terrors, and does a great job of providing more palpable substance to give the evil origin story its legs.
The atmosphere is remarkable, putting the viewer in the new home almost much as the family. The devious nature of the story at the crux is a dark one, a deep foray into demons that exist only to murder children. It’s easy to buy into the terrifying facts Ellison uncovers when you get a sense of the film’s satanic nature. There’s plenty of nerve-wracking scenes, and I grimaced unintentionally a few times – something I rarely do. Sinister is just that, so be warned that there’s some evil shit going on in this movie. The movie takes its time introducing the family, making it all the harder to watch in the end. Sinister succeeds in every way, not sacrificing the character development or story for the wide horror parameter afforded it. Sinister wins in every way.