Sinister started off on a good note, the trailers that showed on television even peaked my interest and I have all but sworn off modern horror. It looked interesting enough so it merited a watch.
It was as I expected, another horror movie with nigh an original idea to be found.
The story follows arrogant and self-centered washed up true crime author Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and his two children Ashley and Trevor. The movie starts with a snuff film of an entire family being hanged. This is the true crime for Ellisons' new book. Unbeknownst to his family, they have just moved into the house where this family was hanged.
In the attic of his new house, Ellison find a box of seemingly innocent home movies. The home movies turn into snuff films rather quickly. The family being hanged, a family tied to lawn chairs and drowned in a pool, a family burned to death in their own car and the like. These snuff films document ritual murders all the way back to the 60's. The families are all murdered in brutal ways and there is always one child from the families that is spared.
While slowing the movies down with his Mac computer, Ellison notices a cryptic being that appears in all the movies in some barely noticeable way or another. With the help of a deputy (that lives under his nickname of Deputy So and So) that really wants to be in the acknowledgements section of Ellisons' new book, he gets in contact with an occult crime professor (Vincent D'Onofrio) at a local university. The professor deems that the symbols that are painted at the crime scenes are from a Babylonian demon called Bughuul. These are the least of Ellisons' problems though, he senses a presence in his house at night and is being plagued by his own paranoia. It only gets worse when Deputy So and So discoveres that each murdered family lived in the house of the previously murdered family before being murdered themselves.
That is the gist of the story without giving away the ending or any of the finer and negligible details. It has honestly been awhile since horror fans have seen the old ghosty hidden in video. It got really popular when The Ring first appeared in english, but died down. Perhaps we are in for a revival.
Unlike The Ring, Sinister did not go for the long and drawn out suspense of a creepy little girl crawling at you. Sinister goes for the 'pop in real quick and go boo' scheme that is popular in all B-list horror movies. It is filled with those cheap and predictable scares. The whole movie is one big predictable mess.
I would not go as far as to say that Sinister is a B-movie, it is just barely above that, but still, it is not the best horror movie ever. What really saves the movie here is the acting. The movie is almost entirely about Ethan Hawke, he does really well as a self-centered narcissistic author. You really felt he was the character he was playing. If you like to judge the acting of actors in movies, this is a really good watch because Ethan Hawke plays his character so throughly.
The other characters fit their roles, but they were nothing spectacular. I did find myself chuckling when I saw Vincent D'Onofrio playing the occult professor. It was like watching his character on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Though you did not see much of the professor as their conversations were done over the iChat. In fact, there were only about two sets in the whole movie. Making use of the iChat was a great way to save on the budget my not making the audience travel down to see this professor.
One of the better parts was watching Ellisons' wife chew him a new one when she finds out that they are living in the house of the murdered family. I love the way that Ellison decided to keep it a secret from his family, even though she asked him if they were living down the road from a murder house. When she chewed him out, Ellison looked like a puppy that had just peed in the house.
The added comic relief of Deputy So and So was a nice little addition to the movie. Horror movies are always better when a little humor is added. Just look at the Dawn of the Dead remake, I loved the little section of the survivors goofing off during a zombie apocalypse. Horror seasoned with reasonable humor is such a palatable mix.
One very strange part of the movie is the make up. Bahuul is shown in several scenes and he ends up looking an awful lot like Eric Draven from The Crow. There are also several scenes in the movie where ghostly children make an appearance. This ghostly children have their make up done like a child who used some white and black face paint to be a zombie for Halloween. The make up for these characters was very uncreative or just plain sloppily done.
Well anyway, Sinister is no movie that will leave you restless. You might be surprised by the ending, but they sort of ruin the surprise of the ending right before it happens. If they would have just left out the exposition right before the ending, it would have been pleasant and shocking! I think had they just done the ending, then added the exposition, it would have made for a better ending overall. Overall, the trailers on the television added much more suspense to the movie than the actual movie had. It was not one of those movies where the only good parts were shown in the trailers, but still it did not live up to the expectation they created.
The movie does provide a good life lesson though. Do not watch other people's home movies that you find in the attic of your new house.