A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.
True-crime writer Ellison Oswalt moves himself and his family into a house where a horrific crime took place earlier, but his family doesn't know. He begins researching the crime so that he can write a new book about it to help his flailing career. He uses some "snuff" film footage he finds in the house to help him in his research, but he soon finds more than he bargained for. There is a figure in each of the films but who or what is it? As a result, his family start to suffer (as does he) and things take a turn for the worse. Will they survive? Written by
Michael Hallows Eve
In each of the snuff reels in Sinister, there are two halves to each film. One half shows an ordinary family from a specific decade doing normal things, and the second half shows the same family being murdered in a creative but disturbing way. The only one that doesn't follow this pattern is the 'Sleepytime 1998' reel, which only features a murder and doesn't feature a family doing ordinary things. It isn't implied that the Oswalt family is being filmed on super 8 doing ordinary things, either. See more »
(at around 50 mins) When Ellison watches the BBQ '79 film on his computer, after filming it with a digital camera, the clip of Bughuul seen in the window is longer than what it was when Ellison first watched the original film (at around 20 mins) . See more »
The movie for jaded horror fans who think nothing can scare them
Directed and scripted by Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily
Rose," 2008's "The Day the Earth Stood Still") from a C. Robert Cargill
story, "Sinister" is an exquisite realization of an original paranormal
theme. The movie debuted in this same town's SXSW Film Festival in
Ethan Hawke is Ellison Oswalt, a true crime author and devoted family
man with a what-have-you-done-for-us-lately fan base and editor
anxiously awaiting his next blockbuster. Wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance)
and youngsters Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario)
are tired of constantly moving from town to town as Oswalt is wont to
plant temporary roots close to the subjects of his
ripped-from-the-headlines novels. As the film opens, the Oswalts are
moving into yet another new house, but Ellison swears this is the last
time, and selectively informs his family of his intentions.
In the process of unpacking, Ellison discovers a box of the previous
owner's old home movies in the attic. Thus begins the odyssey into the
unknown. Let it be said at the outset that this is not "just another
found footage film." In reversing the role of viewer and protagonist,
to some extent, it's Hawke's character who discovers the reels while we
see his story played out on screen. We don't spend two hours watching
shaky 8MM footage. They are integral to the narrative but aren't the
sum of its parts.
In his horror debut, Hawke turns in a striking tour-de-force
performance that rivals anything I've seen recently ("Insidious'"
Patrick Wilson comes close). Rylance is delightful as the patient but
exasperated wife who's barely willing to stand by her man for one more
moment. Foley (Abby in "Win Win") and D'Addario (Josh in "People Like
Us") are frighteningly authentic as the glue that holds this tight-knit
family together. Fred Dalton Thompson ("Law & Order's" D.A. Arthur
Branch and former U.S. Senator) does a star turn as the stubborn
sheriff who will have nothing to do with outsiders tarnishing his
town's already-shaky reputation. Welcome comic relief comes from
underrated character actor James Ransone ("Ken Park," "Inside Man,"
HBO's "The Wire").
This is Ethan Hawke's first foray into this genre, a simple consequence
of his passion for the material. "He said he'd never do horror,"
paraphrasing the filmmakers in the Q&A following the screening here,
but he fell in love with Derrickson's script. The casting of Juliet
Rylance as his wife was also done at his suggestion. Their on screen
chemistry is undeniable.
The technical team doesn't miss a beat. Top-notch visual effects are
always key in a film like this, but the common flaw in this genre lies
in overdoing it. CGI and post-production trickery can certainly advance
the narrative where appropriate but "Sinister's" old school in-camera
effects, done while shooting, enhance the believability of the action.
Cinematographer Chris Norr eschews hand-held for stationary tripod
shots and Hitchcockian slow pans, with POV tracking shots that allow
the audience to sense the protagonist's growing paranoia. The
occasional subjective POV angle, where the character looks at the
camera, effectively places the viewer into the scene.
Lighting in the Oswalt home, where most of the action takes place, is
appropriately subdued and rife with interplays of light and shadow.
Hawke is often seen in silhouette, masking dark corners hiding secrets,
literally. Terrifying night scenes beg the question, "Why are you going
up into the attic?" Christopher Young's original score blends perfectly
with needle-drop songs from some of the filmmakers' favorite indie
bands. In a typical production, where third party songs will be
inserted, the actors work to a temp track -- music that plays in the
background until the company can obtain licensing for the tunes they
want for the finished product, usually unknown (although often hoped
for) during filming, that are then added to the soundtrack in
post-production. With "Sinister," Derrickson and his team were able to
purchase the rights prior to shooting so the cast members performed to
a playback of the songs that would actually be used in the final cut.
It does make a difference, especially when seasoned professionals like
Hawke are "acting" in sync with the same music the audience hears in
those scenes. It creates a symbiotic ambiance that links viewer to
As a reviewer, I try to keep expectations out of my thoughts and
writing. After all, it's only fair to the filmmakers (and me, and my
readers) to judge a movie on its merits. Fortunately, it's not too much
of a challenge to be as objective as possible when entering the
theater, especially if it's a premiere and no other reviews are out
there (and you haven't watched a trailer). But Fantastic Fest is a
genre festival, after all, and one would not attend, theoretically,
without being a fan of same. So expectations are placed on the film
simply by virtue of the fact it's even being shown.
That's why I'm happy to report that "Sinister" was all I hoped it would
be. Yes, this is why I attend Fantastic Fest and movies like this make
it worth the trip. This is the flick for jaded horror fans who think
nothing can scare them. This one does it. "Sinister" will give you
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