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Washed-up true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt finds a box of super 8 home movies that suggest the murder he is currently researching is the work of a serial killer whose work dates back to the 1960s.


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Complete credited cast:
Rob Riley ...
Janet Zappala ...
Ethan Haberfield ...
Pool Party Boy
Lawn Girl
Sleepy Time Boy
Bughuul / Mr. Boogie (as Nick King)


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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Tonight, you've never seen anything this Sinister... See more »


Horror | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for disturbing violent images and some terror | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

12 October 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Found Footage  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$18,007,634 (USA) (12 October 2012)


$48,056,940 (USA) (28 December 2012)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


There is very little blood, almost no cursing, and no sex in this movie because the filmmakers were hoping for a PG-13 rating. However, they still got an R based on content alone. See more »


Pennsylvania's county sheriffs departments do not conduct routine patrols. Their main focus are courts and prisons. The Pennsylvania State Police conducts patrols in municipalities that do not own their own departments. See more »


[first lines]
Tracy: Just one box?
Ellison Oswalt: It's for my office. It's fragile.
Tracy: Sissy.
See more »


Spoofed in Scary Movie 5 (2013) See more »


Music by Andrea Nébel (as Andréa Nebel)
Performed by Aghast
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Best Horror Film in the Last Decade
29 September 2012 | by See all my reviews

Ellison, played by Ethan Hawke, is a true crime novelist who is looking to publish a bestseller more than ten years after the release of his hit book, "Kentucky Blood". Ellison moves his family (a wife and two young kids) into a house that was the scene of a grisly crime, leaving a mother, father, and two children dead, and a third child missing. Upon moving in, Ellison finds a box of super 8 films in the attic. On the tapes are the murders of the family who previously lived in his house and four other murders dating back to 1966. The only connection between the murders is a symbol found in all the videos. With his marriage deteriorating and his children's behavior becoming increasingly strange, Ellison is determined to connect the dots and possibly even solve the string of gruesome murders.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the popular 'scary maze game'. Even if you know what is going to happen, you will most likely be scared in the moments leading up to the 'big scare'. You aren't scared of what is on the screen, but you're scared of what is about to be on the screen. That is the difference between surprise and horror. If the moments leading up to a jump scare are suspenseful, the actual scare is considered 'earned'. Too many horror movies nowadays have unearned jump scares. 'Sinister' is not at all one of those movies. It has it's fair share of jump scares, but after the initial shock, you don't feel at all relieved. The scares stick with you and you will go back to being just as tense as you were before the scare.

Another way 'Sinister' differs from most modern horror movies is that it actually focuses on plot. The film's director Scott Derrickson spends just as much time focusing on plot development as he does on scaring us, much like he did with 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose'. Since the characters are more developed and have more depth, we are able to relate to them much easier. 'Sinister' is more of a drama about family than it is a horror movie.

Ethan Hawke gives one of the best performances I've ever seen in a horror movie. He is great through the entire movie, but especially shines in scenes where he is frustrated. Juliet Rylance who plays his equally as frustrated wife is also great. With great performances from the two leads, it almost doesn't matter how well-acted the characters of their children are, but they are great nonetheless. Michael Hall D'Addario who plays Trevor provides one of the most shocking and terrifying scares I've ever seen (I just wish it wasn't in the trailer. However, if it wasn't, I may have peed).

I was lucky enough to see this movie in advance and attend a Q&A session with the director and writer. In the Q&A, they mentioned how this is a new take on the 'found footage' genre. This time however, instead of an "anonymous source" finding the footage and "editing" it from 36 hours to 80 minutes, the main character is the one who finds the footage. The audience is shown the footage, but not all at once. It is split up perfectly. Every time you hear the projector power up, you will automatically begin looking through the tiny slits between your fingers and you will certainly hold your breath.

'Sinister' is disturbing. 'Sinister' is 'Saw' level disturbing. During some scenes, I was actually trembling. The ending is also extremely messed up and surprising. And messed up. Not to mention messed up. The shocking imagery and twisted murders with certainly stick with you. Luckily you won't have any nightmares about the movie, but that's only because you won't be sleeping at all.

'Sinister' is the scariest horror movie in years and the best overall in the last decade. Horror fans will flock to see this movie and will not be disappointed. It is well-acted, well- written, well-directed, and most importantly, terrifying. If you see only one horror movie the rest of the year, let this be it. It is near-perfect and a step in the right direction for horror movies.

358 of 573 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Movie was legendary and then..... shinofu88
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The Death of the English Language! TerpStudent
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