Upon first inspection, Sinister appears to be a scary, complex film. After mulling about it in one’s mind, it can easily be torn apart quite quickly. The plot revolves around Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), a true crime writer, who continuously hauls his family across the United States in order to write his next best seller. This time he has moved his own family into a house where the murder of another happened. The family were hanged from the tree in the backyard, with a daughter never being found. The twist in this film comes when Oswalt finds a box of 8mm films in the attic – each detailing a sickening murder of a family.
While this set up would prove quite unnerving, and yes, the films are disturbing if one thinks too deeply about them, the addition of a possibly supernatural subplot emerges and confuses details. Actually, there are quite a few subplots that never fully are explained or come to fruition. Oswalt apparently gets so involved in his work that he ends up with a whisky bottle constantly in his possession. This adds detail initially to is he/isn’t he seeing things or are the supernatural aspects part of his drunken imagination, but we never move beyond that. His son has night terrors which causes the boy to be found in awkward places – such as a moving box, or the bushes outside the house. Apparently, these night terrors have been going on for years and they’ve never been as bad as they apparently now are since the Oswalt’s have moved into the hanging family’s house. Do we learn more about this? No, it falls away.
The largest hole in Sinister is the idea that this child soul eating entity, Bughuul or Mr. Boogie, is mentioned, half ass explained, and we never get anything else. The image of this creature is quite disturbing, and yet we only get glimpses. Yes, this could be a scare tactic, but if this guy is truly the point of the film, then why do we have to leave it fully up to our imagination as to why or how he is doing what he is doing? There is a lack of substance that turns this film ultimately into a huge disappointment where it could have been given at least an ounce more.
That being said, Sinister is amazing in one aspect: the sound. From the click of the projector in Oswalt’s office adding a sense of dread, to the parallel of the score, the sounds of the film instill a gut felt terror. There are little moments throughout that give a jolt here and there – mostly all pertaining to Mr. Boogie which, in turn, makes it that much more disappointing. The DVD definitely delivers on exploitation of this superb element, however, with the audio feature.
The DVD is a great clean transfer – looking almost Blu-ray quality in many scenes. Pores and wrinkles can be seen on Hawke’s face, however, the movie appears to be dark at times. It is on purpose and part of the atmosphere, however it can be distracting.
A deleted scene is included which adds more background to the hanging family murders. This deleted scene stars Angela Bettis as a next door neighbor giving her interpretation of the family up to and after their murder. It is available with or without commentary. The commentary reveals that the role was written specifically for her. The scenes were cut due to pacing. However, they could’ve added information, though the writers say are unnecessary.
The DVD is packaged with both a Digital Copy and an Ultraviolet copy, making it seem fancier than it is. The average person will grab a copy and think they’re getting something extra special, when really, they’re not. Other features include commentary with director Scott Derrickson alone and commentary with Derrikson and cowriter C. Robert Cargill. Two featurettes which pertain to the film, True Crime Authors and Living in a House of Death, are included on the DVD as well. The 9 minute feature on true crime writers gives a bit of substance as it helps explain Oswalt’s dire need to finish his book to perhaps get justice for the murder victimes. The house feature, however, is entertaining because it revolves around our repulsion and, at the same time, intrigue with homes associated with murders. And, of course, a trailer is included.
In the end, for the $3,000,000 budget, Sinister is pretty entertaining despite its flaws, which are almost a bit too heavy to overlook.
DVD Score: 7/10