Sinister

Do you believe in Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? Maybe the Tooth Fairy? You’re going to need an even higher level of suspension of disbelief in order to stand behind Lionsgate/Summit’s supernatural Sinister, the latest genre offering from Exorcism of Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson. While the chiller will cloud your mind with extreme visuals and a brooding score/sound design, you shouldn’t be tricked into thinking this is a good movie – because it’s not – yet there’s something there that will resonate with viewers well through the night. I guess success is measured in dollars, right? Good or bad, Sinister will be the next Insidious.

The film follows Ethan Hawke as Ellison, a true-crime author clinging on to his 15-minutes of fame from a book published 10 years prior. He moves his family into the house of a grisly unsolved murder where a family was collectively hung from a tree in their backyard. He hopes to solve the crimes and return to the limelight that he so desperately wants to rekindle (even at the expense of his own family). While moving into the house, he discovers a box of 8mm videos in the attic that all depict a different family being murdered execution style: a hanging, a drowning, a burning and more. Within the footage lurks a creature, a ghoul called “Mr. Boogie”. The further he investigates the worse things get in the house…

… but the structure of Sinister is absolutely infuriating, and unsurprisingly falls into the same trap that Exorcism of Emily Rose did. I call this “stop and go” horror, a film that continually takes the viewer out of the experience in order to sit them down and explain it. It’s like a sales pitch mixed together with a cool slideshow presentation. The only difference between Derrickson pitching this in a conference room with scary footage is that the conference room is replaced with a poorly dressed house (it’s understood that they just moved in, and are poor, but the house looks like a cheap set) and Derrickson is replaced by Vincent D’Onofrio, a demonologist named Professor Jonas. The viewer is continually removed from the haunting visuals to watch as Ellison and Professor Jonas/his wife/Deputy Dewey (not really, but yes, really) torture them through exposition-heavy scenes that literally walk them from A to Z. It gets so bad that the audience is explained the demon’s (also known as a Ghoulie) entire motive, which in itself is absolutely ridiculous. Also, the way Ellison reacts make little sense. His reactions to some of the horrific things don’t even come close to, say, Nicolas Cage watching the 8mm footage in 8MM, and for him to continue to live in that house while he owns another house doesn’t make a lick of sense. Why put his family through all of that when he witnesses stuff that would scare most people into a coma?

And here’s the frustrating conundrum:

Sinister is stupid. So incredibly stupid. But it IS SCARY. SUPER SCARY. Does that make it good? Absolutely not, but it does suggest that there are some reasons to see the film. The discovered 8mm footage is haunting and disturbing as hell, there’s a lawnmower shocker that was easily one of the best scares in the past few years, and all of the footage of the ghoulie will make your skin crawl (It’s just so hard to get behind when Ellison prints out a screengrab of the ghoulie, pins it on his wall, and stares at it like it’s just some dude in a mask). The design of the ghoulie is absolutely astounding and, until he comes full frame and center, he’s absolutely terrifying. This is all enhanced by one of the most brilliant score/sound designs in recent memory. Some of the horror elements in Sinister will leave you shaking and it’s definitely the kind of film that resonates with viewers as they’re lying in bed that night. Albeit, it’s all a sham (cool parlor tricks); it would be a tragedy to call it quality horror.

To recap, Sinister is a plot-laden mess that requires an incredibly high amount of suspension of disbelief. The best way to describe it is 8MM meets Paranormal Activity. In an odd turn of events, this film is still highly recommended for those seeking one good scare and an unnerved stomach, it’s highly effective.

 

Official Score

  • jasondidntdoit

    Clearly you’re someone who prefers your blood and guts and brazen torture over atmosphere and story-telling. The Exorcist did the exact same thing, pulling people out of the horror for breaths as the tension rose, and it was those breaths where you found yourself terrified the most because of the anticipation of what was to come. But you probably hate The Exorcist too, don’t you?

  • Cale

    I actually agreed with this review although I would’ve probably been a little harder on the film. I’m not one of “those people” who prefer blood and guts over atmosphere and story telling; however, I just didn’t feel there was much story telling going on here at all. It started out great, I was psyched, and the atmosphere was creepy. However, about halfway through the film lost something for me. I could see where it was going, I just didn’t know it was going to be so boring getting there.

    I hate that too. I really, really wanted to love this movie but I just couldn’t.

  • Babyface

    I liked the pacing of this film… the pull and release as it were. Definitely creepy and worth the suspension of disbelief. It was neat and tidy and cohesive… and the scares are really there. The lawnmower scene was a fine example. Glad you mentioned the film score/sound design – definitely above par. Anybody know if there’s a soundtrack album? That would be one for late night head tripping.

  • NateLinhart

    I actually disagree with this review. I loved the dialogue, and felt that the way the main character reacted could be realistic. Not everyone would react the same way to this situation, and while 98% of people would leave the house instantly upon discovering the footage, a true crime-novelist whom has been desensitized already from things in the past, might take a while to truly realize when it’s time to leave. Especially when he’s so hellbent on getting back into the spotlight. I loved the stop and go style of the film. And i felt the film explaining everything that happened was not a distraction, nor as over the top as some other films.

  • UNIQimages

    I wonder…what a “quality horror” really is too you??

    I watch countless horror films, on a daily basis. Recently I decided to make my own movie review site because I am tired of reading reviews like this one! It is in the works! ;)

    Yes, Sinister explained the story as it went on…because the main character was a crime-novelist, so as he discovered new things about the story he was investigating, we did too. The director of this story was not M. Night Shyamalan. Just because it didn’t have 40 twists and kept you guessing doesn’t mean it is a terrible horror story.

    You are saying that this story sucked, because instead of it being scary start to finish they kept removing you from the horror to experience real life. The real moments the author of the story wanted you to see.

    The acting was great, the lighting was amazing, the composition of each shot blew my mind, like you mention above the soundtrack is insane. The found footage is disturbing and bone chilling. As far as I am concerned the writers wanted you to hate the main character for staying, and putting his family in danger. Yes, His actions and choices are ridiculous, but his obsession with figuring out what happened and becoming famous is very real.

    “While the chiller will cloud your mind with extreme visuals and a brooding score/sound design, you shouldn’t be tricked into thinking this is a good movie.”

    Excuse me? You honestly do not have a right to say that. The only thing in this situation you can really say is you did not like the story line. That there are other horror movies out there that you think are better. The fact of the matter is, you could not have created this movie. It was scary, and it was a good story line. There are movies out there that TRULY SUCK, “Zombie Strippers” for example. This is not one of them.

    It seems to me lately, that every review site I find that is tailored to horror, every article on here that I have read, is negative. Do you guys even like the horror genre??? I know there are bad movies out there, but they aren’t all that bad. People put a lot of time and effort into making these stories. Why the hell do you judge them so hard? It’s not fair or right. Why do you even do this?? Do you feel super important and big behind your computer judging someone when you probably don’t even know how to operate a single program that is used to make one of these movies.

    • Andrew J Hogan

      Couldn’t agree more, this film deserves better skull ratings at least 4 and a half skulls. It’s the most decent horror flick they have been throwing at us lately. I have been watching horrors since a pup this film is the only film that gave me goosebumps. Sinister captures the beauty of horror, the beauty of a fright.

      • ChelseaGoneAwry

        My point exactly, Andrew. I was raised on gory slasher flicks, so at this point there’s not a lot that scares me. So at this point in my life, there’s something so great about a film that can make me flinch.

  • ChelseaGoneAwry

    I typically agree with a lot of reviews on this site. However, I feel like this one is being a little bit unfair. I saw the film, loved it, and barely noticed that the plot was “stop and go”. In fact, I would call it more “pause and sprint” because the moments of dread – watching the 8mm tapes knowing something truly awful is about to happen – are so intense that I was grateful for the chance to catch my breath.
    This film scared the crap out of me, and I guess that’s all I was looking for. With all the psychological horror films that force you to think about their profound truths and societal metaphors, it was nice to have one flick that’s purely there to give me nightmares.

  • megatron

    Ummmm yeah fucking right! Easily one of my top 5 scariest horror movies of all time. I think MrDisgusting is a little biter over the fact that Sinister blows V/H/S out of the water. Am I right or am I wrong?