What’s great about Sinister is that it has a good mean streak to it. No one is safe in the film and that’s a quality I really like.
The new horror film Sinister over anything else, asks the serious question of how much supernatural scary shit would one would put up with before relocating their family to safety. The main character, Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) pushes this theory to the limit. I kept wondering how much terror his family had to endure before he decided it was time to find some new digs. I don’t at all want to sound like this is a negative aspect of the film. I actually enjoyed Sinister quite a bit. It was just silly at times how painfully obvious it was that Hawke’s family was in some serious danger and he just didn’t seem to care.
Sinister is about a true crime novelist, Oswalt, who has just moved into a new house with his family while he writes his latest book about the brutal killing of a family. What Ellison doesn’t tell his wife and kids, is that they moved into the house where the murder took place. The first night at the new home, Ellison finds a box of home movies in the attic. Naturally he takes them out of the attic and into his new office where he will spend a large part of the film researching and writing his new book.
What the home films reveal are gruesome murders of a few different families. Like, GRUESOME. In one of the films a family is tied to pool side chairs and pulled into the pool with ropes and another has a family chained, yes chained, inside of a car and burned alive inside of a garage after being drenched in gasoline.
What’s great about Sinister is that it has a good mean streak to it. No one is safe in the film and that’s a quality I really like. A lot of horror films won’t touch the death of kids. Sinister kills kids without blinking an eye. Don’t read this the wrong way, I don’t get enjoyment out of the killing of kids, but whenever a kid is in danger in a movie 9 times out of 10 you know they’re going to be safe when it’s all said and done, ruining any sense of thrill. Sinister doesn’t care about the safety of any kids at all. They are as expendable as the adults are.
Sinister is aptly titled. The film at times is pure evil. Its subject matter along with its presentation felt unforgiving at times. The film is actually a nice addition to the almost dead ‘found footage’ sub-genre that is (hopefully) on its last legs. When Ellison watches these films we are transported to the events and are shown first-hand how ugly people can be. One of these home films, which also includes one of the best scares I’ve seen in years, is very unsettling to watch.
One of the best aspects of Sinister is the filmmaker’s acquisition of actor Ethan Hawke. Hawke, based on his career, belongs nowhere near this type of movie. What Hawke brings however is credibility to the genre. I don’t know what he saw in the script, but I’m glad he decided to do the film, because he is really good in this.
While it might seem like I’m trying to dissuade you from seeing Sinister, I’m not. The film is hard to handle at times and throws its gruesomeness right smack in your face. The filmmakers are obviously going for a new breed of horror with the film’s constant barrage of terror and unsettling violence. It feels like every 5 minutes Ellison is walking through his house at night, in the dark. Shadows loom around him and scares seemingly come at any moment. These scenes were constant and a huge part of the film.
You could make the argument that Ellison is a complete idiot. Argument number one has been covered. Weird shit happens at night that you can’t explain; you leave. Ellison doesn’t. Argument number two: You don’t walk through your dark house at night after you hear some odd noises in the attic, ESPECIALLY THE ATTIC. Ellison does this night after night after night after night. Ellison seems really dumb for how smart of a person he probably is.
Of course you can probably forgive this given the genre it’s in. Things like this are expected for the genre to work. It’s also forgivable because Sinister works really well at scaring you over and over again. I lost track of how many times I sunk into my seat or how many times my girlfriend clinched my hand tighter.
I don’t know how the film will play to audiences. Horror hounds will probably love it. I’m pretty close myself. But mainstream audiences will probably be split on how terrifyingly violent the film is and how good it is at scaring you. Maybe I’m just getting older but some of the violence I found unsettling. It is just hard to deny how much the film scared me. And in the end, isn’t that why we watch them?