Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Vincent D’Onofrio
Review Author: Tony
Next in our series of horror films leading up to Halloween is our first genuine horror film Sinister (I could only get away with horror comedies for so long). Helmed by director Scott Derrickson, who is also directing this year’s Doctor Strange, Sinister is one of the scariest films in recent years. In fact, now that I think about it it’s probably one of the only horror films I’ve seen in the last few years.
I decided to revisit Sinister as it is genuinely one the best modern horror films I’ve seen. The horror genre has always been saturated with pretty terrible films but the last decade has seen some truly awful releases. This possession and handheld camera sub-genre has been done to death. Directors like Justin Lin and James Wan have breathed some new life into the genre yet I find the bad outweighs the good every year when it comes to horror.
For me the 80’s has always been the golden age of horror, they just didn’t give a fuck back then. Any creepy crawly you can think of had a horror film made about it back then, the same goes for any item you can find in a toolbox. Sure they all followed the same formula but the overall campness and gory practical effects have always entertained me immeasurably.
The plot of Sinister sees true crime writer, Ellison Oswalt, moving into a new house with his family so that he can begin a new book. Ellison is seeking former glory as his star has faded and unbeknown to his family they’re new home is a former crime scene where a family was murdered and they’re youngest disappeared. Ellison gets more than he bargained for when he finds a bunch of old reels in the attic labeled with cute names. These reels all contain footage of grisly crimes which at first shock Ellison, but then motivate him to solve these crimes for his new book.
Having the lead character be a true crime author is a clever choice as it explains why the character wouldn’t be too quick to shy away from grizzly scenes and odd occurrences. Hawke plays the lead character superbly, displaying all his flaws and insecurities and justifying his tenacity to solve these crimes with a selfish angle.
Derrickson shows a lot of range in how he approaches the actual horror in the film, The reels are unsettling and some of the films scariest sequences, the mythology, and paranormal events build the tension while the Big bad of the film provides some praiseworthy jump scares. However, the scariest aspect of the film is the soundtrack. Each track is haunting and still shakes me to my core. Its industrial otherworldly score gives the film a truly unnerving relentless pace.
Sinister unfortunately suffers from a disappointing ending as it feels all wrapped up too quick and rushed. I had the same issue with Insidious, another good modern horror film. In both cases, the tone of the ending felt at odds with what had been established earlier. Concluding a horror film is no easy task as all the tension and uneasiness has built up to the final act where the director is left with the choice to reveal all or hold it back and leave the ending ambiguous.
Sinister is an unnerving but largely entertaining horror film with an amazing soundtrack which is unfortunately bogged down by a rather dull ending.