Sinister This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 5, 2012
When I first heard about Sinister, I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, how generic can a title get? (The advertisements boasted how it was from Jason Blum, the producer of Insidious, a man who apparently makes his living off of creepy adjectives). After seeing the trailers though, the film seemed like it had an interesting premise. I went to see it hoping for a fun, cheap horror thriller, the kind of guilty pleasure fare you might see on late-night TV. To say I got more than I bargained for would be an understatement. People were screaming in the theater, crying even. One of my friends was holding her coat in front of her eyes. Another was holding on to his coat like a security blanket. By the end of the film, I had bitten my nails clean off. I can’t help but ask myself, what made this film so effective?

Ethan Hawke stars as a true crime novelist. He was doing really well ten years ago, now not so much. Hoping to score another big hit, he moves himself and his family into a little suburban house where the grisly murder of an entire family had taken place nine months before. (If the characters from Scream found themselves in the same situation, they probably would have said something like “ Hey, we can’t move into a house where people just got killed. Didn’t you see the Amityville Horror?”) As he’s moving in, he finds a box of old Super 8 films. He plays one, at night of course, only to find that it’s a grainy home movie footage of the murder that took place at that house nine months ago. It turns out all the home movies are footage of famous murder cases where a family was killed, and the youngest child went missing. As he studies the films, some dating back to the 1960’s, connections between them start to surface. In each one, an ancient pagan symbol is painted on the wall, and a figure with a demonic face can be briefly seen. As his investigations continues, things start to go bump in the night.

A disturbing premise like this is more than enough for a good horror film. It’s the execution that pushes Sinister over the top. The filmmakers have found a perfect balance of jump scare tactics and good ole’ fashioned suspense. Even more unnerving is Christopher Young’s avant garde score, which ranks up there with the Exorcist and Halloween themes as some of the scariest movie music you will ever hear. But what really invests you in the film is Hawke, who is superb as a man who, like the audience, is revolted by what he sees, but can’t bring himself to look away. See this one and prepare for nightmares.

Rating: ***** out of *****.

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