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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Oct 25: Sinister


Oct 25: Sinister

"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."
Directed by: Scott Derrickson, Rated: R, 110 minutes

Sinister is a movie that starts off incredibly well but builds up to a rather lackluster finale. It's in no way a game-changer in the horror genre but it still manages to provide a good chunk of new ideas and a twist on a somewhat familiar mythology. Of course, a large majority of the scares are the gimmicky pop-out ones, but the overall dread the movie creates, with the help of a terrifying score and great sound work, still leaves you on edge.

"Creepy" children and an awkwardly tall post-pubescent boy are scary anymore. 

Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) is a true-crime novelist. He's written a handful of books but cannot seem to recapture the success of his first book, Kentucky Blood. After a family is murdered in the backyard of a house, Oswald decides to move his family to the location, in hopes of uncovering secrets behind the murder and get into the mindset of the murdered family. Oswald discovers a box of old Super 8 films in the attic only to find out that they are actual footage of the murder that took place previously in the home as well as a few others. With the help of a local college professor (Vincent D'Onofrio), Oswald realizes that the murders are connected and that the source of evil behind each of the gruesome events is the pagan god, Baghul, a deity who uses images as portals into our world, only to kidnap children and feed on their souls. Oswald puts his own family at risk and needs to figure out a way to 
stop the evil.

If you look closely you can see him riiiiiighhhtttt there. 

Sinister's greatest strengths are the sounds, the actual Super 8 films, and the performance of Ethan Hawke. The score is incredibly unsettling and its constant dissonance becomes a white noise that distracts, making each scare more effective. Each movie-in-the-movie is just as scary, and the grainy, "found-footage-ness" of each makes them feel all too real. As for Hawke, he carries the film to a level that not only gives the movie a good chunk of credibility, but actually has someone who can act at the center of it. Most horror films suffer from terrible acting and with Hawke in the role, it escalates to awesome. Even with all of these strengths, however, Sinister has plenty of flaws. To start, the first 45 minutes are terrific but the last 45 are rather boring and lead to a very expected and almost laughable ending. Another problem with the film is that as Oswald looks into the films until the wee-hours of the night, he makes a lot of noise. Only once does he wake up his family, even after making enough racket to sound like an earthquake. Also, not once does Oswald turn on any damn light. As for myself, if I hear a single bump in the night, I go around turning every damn light on in the house. Because as we all know, lights keep away the boogeyman and pagan gods. Each of these things annoy the f**k out of you, and once you notice them, it takes a hell of a lot away from the movie. 

I idolize Ethan Hawke, but dammit man, turn on a light. You're smarter than that!

Sinister is still worth watching. With all the shit in the horror genre that comes out lately, it's a shallow breath of fresh air. One thing many horror movies these day suck at doing is creating a score that's somewhat memorable and just as scary on its own as it is with the accompanying movie. Christopher Young delivers a great score that blends both music, sound effects, and voices. Of course, director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) also manages to create great images that crawl across the screen and his attention to detail is admirable. Even with its flaws, Sinister delivers some solid scares and gets under your skin. Had the ending been changed a bit (and  not as rushed), Sinister could easily have been a new classic, and Baghul could have begun his initiation process into the ranks of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees. Unfortunately  for now, he's gonna have to wait in line behind Jigsaw and just ahead of f**king Toby (Paranormal Activity). 

The Good:
the sounds, the music, the direction, and Ethan Hawke's performance
The Bad:
a script that has plenty of stupid moments and a apparently has a fear of turning on the lights
The Ugly:
the ending... it really could have been so much better


Discussion Question:
Do you think that in this day and age, we can see a horror villain as memorable as the classic three? Or are we too saturated with lackluster horror films to have any single character stand out? 


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At October 26, 2012 at 6:38 AM , Blogger Ben Hayward said...

I gave a very similar rating (7.5). I was disappointed that the ending didn't show more of Bagul (sp?)
I enjoyed the journey of the film, especially the Super 8 tapes, but the ending was very rushed.

As for your discussion question - I thought Jeeper's Creepers was going to be the next big film franchise but then the second one ruined it completely.
Off the top of my head, I can't think of a sustainable horror movie villain that's come out recently.

At October 26, 2012 at 10:36 AM , Blogger Nick said...

I've heard from a few people about Jeeper's Creepers. It really had the mojo to go places but the sequel indeed, sucked. Such a shame too as it was a really interesting premise.

At October 29, 2012 at 10:22 PM , Blogger Richard Kirkham said...

I echo most of your comments but would not be as generous in the rating. I was disappointed, but you are right about the first half of the film.

At October 29, 2012 at 10:35 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I was hesitant on the 7.3. I knew it deserve a seven and maybe a little more but I do agree I was a little generous.

At October 30, 2012 at 1:16 PM , Blogger Sati. said...

I'm seeing this tomorrow, hope it's not complete shit :) It's pretty hard to find horror films with decent finales, actually, for me something that is at least half decent is worth seeing considering how terrible new horror movies are usually.

At October 30, 2012 at 4:37 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Good point. I just wish that something that's decent in the genre would be strong enough to be that good throughout and not putter out at the end or get lazy.

At October 31, 2012 at 9:14 PM , Anonymous Daniel Prinn said...

Good review, Nick. I agree, the final bit felt so rushed. It sure suffered in that area, but I felt it was quite well done and pretty fresh.

At October 31, 2012 at 9:45 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Fresh for the most part, yes. But the Third Act is just eh.


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