I actively avoid Horror Movies in theaters. Horror movies are pretty much the toilet of american cinema. Aside from the stellar Cabin in the Woods, which almost didn’t see the light of day, I never go see Horror Movies unless it’s a rental. The Sound is always cranked up and there are usually too many jump scares. To make it worth the trip the characters have to be interesting and it has to scare me on a visceral level. I feel like 3 times out of 4 Sinister does work in that way.
Sinister is a pretty standard story. A true life crime writer Ellison Oswalt, played very well by Ethan Hawke, moves into a house with his wife, daughter, and son. Like I said very standard. A few things elevate the start of the movie. Ethan Hawke is very convincing in the role and the child actors are really great, both shining but taking a back seat to Hawke. The wife is okay as well, I wish they had spent more time with the family but I do think they get just enough screen time to remind the audience of what Ellison is working for. Also what helped is a great opening, which sets the tone for the movie and is almost a callback to the Saw killings, but a little more believable which makes it that much scarier. Ellison, craving for another hit story, finds a crate in his attic. In what could have easily been just a boring mystery thriller, we have a twist with grisly murders on 8 mm film. I’d go further into the story but the less you know the better.
The positives and negatives almost blend together. We have a great, fresh premise that will please your standard horror buffs and the other side who don’t mind pointless jump frights. The family dynamic works extremely well with while not distracting the movie’s premise. The direction at the start is great and the atmosphere and makes civilian life seem scary. The projector becomes a character in of itself and anytime I heard it go off the hairs on my neck stood up. Basically it’s like a foreign art horror movie and does a great job in the first half of providing scares and making it’s characters likable, like all great horror movies should. The screenplay does it’s job and the imagery is fantastic. If anything I can say there are images I will not be able to get out of my head, which is more than i can say for most Horror movies now-a-days.
Now the problem with Sinister is that as the movie goes on it feels like a standard horror movie. Everything that works in the first half does not fare as well in the second. It starts to follow a pattern and at a certain point it becomes predictable. Once the audience figures out how a scene is going to play out we become smarter than Ellison and then it’s hard to care. It all happens at night so it’s pretty clear they should at least go to a hotel to sleep. It becomes pretty obvious that they should pack up and leave. It does what a lot of good movies do in giving a great premise and then dropping a character in mid ritual and having them figure out what’s happening along with the audience. Cabin In The Woods did the same thing, except it feels natural that the audience figures out what’s going to happen and that predictability works as it rewards the them for doing the work and figuring out the formula. Sinister starts off in a rewarding way, but I’m not sure if the we’re is supposed to figure out what’s supposed to happen or not. I figured it out in the first 20 minutes, but enjoyed the ride for the most part, until the second half. But not everybody watches as many movies as I do, and for the audiences who aren’t as jaded as I I don’t think they could figure it out. Also, there are a few scenes that have scares that contradicts the concept, but I can forgive that until I re-watch it to see if it wasn’t explained better.
It has a low budget that adds to the anti-hollywood feel that makes it feel fresh in the beginning, and honestly I wouldn’t have noticed if I gave the director some points it’s that he made the movie seem bigger than it was. And the acting is great across the bored. For someone like me who watches 10 movies a week because he has nothing else better to do it’s a Rental. For someone who wants to be entertained I’d say go check it out but don’t break any appointments.