Last year’s Insidious was surprising in that I wasn’t expecting it to scare the shit out of me quite as intensely as it did. Since then I have been chasing the next Insidious, and I was quite sure that it was going to be Sinister. It had a creepy ass trailer, an interesting premise, and Ethan Hawke, and I think we all love ourselves some Ethan Hawke. Oh and also it was produced by the same dudes who produced Insidious, so there’s that.
Alas I can’t quite give Sinister the award of being the ultimate pants shitter, but it’s still an effective horror movie that I do recommend, and is the best scary movie of 2012 by leaps and bounds.
Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer who has spent the last decade chasing the success of his first book. He moves his family into a new home where a family of four was hung, and their youngest daughter has gone missing. Local law enforcement makes it very clear right away that they are not happy he is there, since he often depicts cops as incompetent in his novels. Shortly after moving in, Hawke finds a box in the attic that contains a projector and a series of film reels. Needless to say, shit starts to real bad once he starts looking into these. I won’t spoil what’s on the actual reels, but I will say it’s some of the more disturbing imagery I’ve seen in a horror movie in quite some time. From there, he learns of the existence of a Pagan god named Bagul who is not the nicest dude and is probably trying to get up to something. The rest I’ll leave a mystery because a large part of the film’s appeal is watching the story unfold.
The story may not be crazy original, but it’s executed very well. The film reels themselves are incredibly unnerving, and there are plenty of sequences that create a terrific sense of tension. The entire thing has an air of dread hanging over it that makes it work. Yes there is a bit too much reliance on the standard BLAH jump scare (an unfortunate amount of which have already been spoiled in the trailer) but often Sinister relies more on frightening imagery and ideas to scare you, which is a nice change of pace.
Ethan Hawke does a terrific job of grounding the film and is great playing a guy who is almost constantly freaked the fuck out. My one issue is that his reactions aren’t quite strong enough when he is viewing the film reels for the first time. He is witnessing some gruesome, awful events, but instead of a look of appropriate disgust, he has more of a “huh, well this is puzzling” look. Go check out Nic Cage in 8MM, now THAT’S how you react to watching terrible shit unfold in a film. In fact if you ever need a lesson on how to do just about anything, I’m sure Nic Cage has done it correctly somewhere. Also why in the fuck doesn’t this guy turn on lights when he’s exploring his house for the source of creepy noises? The first time they explain that there was a power outage, but I know those lights are working fine the other times he does it! Is it just to prove that he’s man enough to do it? You don’t need to impress us Ethan Hawke, just turn on some lights!
One reason I do feel Insidious was more frightening than Sinister, is that Insidious establishes very quickly that you are never safe from something scary happening, even if it’s day time and the family is sitting around the breakfast table. Sinister has sections where you know you’re completely safe. They do try to shoehorn in some humour in the form of a dimwitted deputy, which works sometimes but comes off a little cartoonish compared to the tone of the rest of the film.
I definitely recommend Sinister. A solid story (with a somewhat weak ending), a great lead performance by Hawke, and some truly disturbing imagery puts this leaps and bounds above the usual horror fare we are given these days. It’s also one of the rare horror movies where I truly feel it could benefit from a sequel since it seems there is a lot here that could be fleshed out even further. Go see this and support quality horror!