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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.
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 actor.
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 nightmares.
DON'T WATCH THE TRAILER! or at least try not too. I went into this film
only knowing the title and the fact i was waiting for a scary movie to
actually be... yep scary. Well i was in luck, as Sinister is exactly
that...quite Sinister! I say try to avoid the trailers if u can because
quite a lot is shown, although having said that you will probably be so
absorbed into the film that you'll forget about what you have seen and
still be spooked, BOO! :)
All the actors do a good job, Ethan Hawke is solid, not quite sure about the chemistry between him and his wife but i guess its hardly relevant in this film. The directing and editing of the film is slick with interesting angles and shots. The imagery is great and so are your jumpy moments even if it does contain a few of the horror Clichés.
The plot is simple and follows true-crime writer Ellison (Ethan Hawke) as he discovers a box of home movies "found footage" of murders that put his family in danger. Some people may dislike the believability of the films central ethos for the evil protagonist; however i liked the original mythology created here, it adds something new to the table. Also If the film is successful (im guessing it might be) the Evil Character aka Bagoul will no doubt be a new item for Halloween stores! Although not a game changer in the genre, i would easily go and say this will be the scariest film of the year and if not, well thats just win-win for us all!! ((star ratings = 7 good, 8 represents very good. 9 superb 10 epic)
In this day and age, horror is getting more and more creative by demand
since the psycho killer in the woods-scenario has pretty much run its
course. A consequence of that is the incorporation of contemporary
technology and concepts appearing in the genre; "found footage" films
have replaced Jason and Michael, and while these films do have
potential (this year's indie "V/H/S" had some neat ideas), even they
are beginning to lose steam. Enter "Sinister", which is an amalgam of
timeless supernatural horror themes and "found footage" technique that
has proved to be a consistent box office draw.
"Sinister" follows a true crime author, Ellison (Ethan Hawke) who moves his family (unbeknownst to them) into a house where an entire family was hung to death in a tree in their backyard, save the youngest daughter who vanished without a trace. Upon moving in, Ellison finds a box of 8mm footage and a projector in the attic; contained in these reels of film are various murders dating from the 1960s up to present day one of them is the filming of the hanging murder that occurred in his backyard. As he furthers investigation into the footage, he finds more than he bargained for when connections are made to an ancient deity who takes the souls of children.
On a surface level, "Sinister" appears like every other horror piece on the market, but I was surprised by the substance the film had. Conceptually and thematically speaking, it's not painfully original, but director Scott Derrickson makes up for that with striking visuals and a daunting soundtrack. The opening of the film is particularly disturbing the movie begins with the family hanging murder, which sets a damned unsettling tone for the rest of the film.
In terms of the supernatural elements at play in the script, they almost seem fairytale-ish (a Pagan deity who feeds on children c'mon), but it does add a unique element to the film. I have to say though that the most frightening thing in this movie are the actual murder tapes themselves. It could be just me, but the notion of filmed murders unsettles me to the core, even if I know that the footage is faked; as if the act of murder itself isn't awful enough, documenting it is downright... well, sinister. The footage utilized in the film is unsettling, shocking, and above all, it's realistic, so the audience gets the same unpleasant feelings shared by Ethan Hawke's character. Truly macabre stuff.
Another major positive for this film is that the acting is far above par for what most genre fans are dealt. Ethan Hawke is a quality actor and newcomer Juliet Rylance proves her chops here; their scenes together are particularly strong, and much more than any horror fan could dream of asking for. The film's ending can be seen from a certain distance, although it doesn't necessarily make it less shocking in this case. If anything, it adds to the sense of dread pervading the film.
Overall, "Sinister" was a pleasant surprise for me. It doesn't offer heaps in terms of originality, but it's a stylistically stunning film and takes steps in the right in direction very gracefully. When it comes down to it, I can't say that I was even really "scared" by the film so much as I was unsettled by it. It has its share of orthodox jump scares, but I was more bothered and rattled by the grim nature of the film as a whole, which is a nice feeling to walk away from the theater with as a thick-skinned genre fan who has become increasingly harder to unnerve. 7/10.
Ever since the very first trailer came out I thought, "now this looks
good!" However, some quite poor reviews came in so my dreams were
shattered slightly. But then suddenly some rave reviews came out, even
from my favourite critic, Chris Tookey who gave it 5 stars! My faith
was suddenly re-installed and I was incredibly excited to see it. It
With "The Cabin in the Woods" and now "Sinister", 2012 is restoring my faith in modern horror. It's a truly outstanding film that had me gripped for its entire 115 minutes. The film doesn't dawdle about too much either, it opens with a highly unsettling clip of found footage and then we get a beautiful swooping shot of a man and his family moving in to a new house. It's a standard set-up that we've even seen a few months ago in the surprisingly fun horror, "The Possession" but it's a clever one because we're mostly focused on our hero and in a sense that is what the film is about. His obsession with himself and trying to be re-ignite his fame after writing a highly successful debut true crime novel, followed by several duds.
I was quite surprised as to how much exposition was given to the main character and it only makes the film even more compelling than it is. He's also played brilliantly by Ethan Hawke, who makes up for the lack of acting skills his wife possesses. It reminded me a little of "The Shining" with the egotistical novelist stumbling upon a certain ghostly history, and it certainly contains the same amount of creepy moments. Ethan stumbles upon the super 8 films quite quickly which I was surprised and pleased about, as all too often there's a belated exposition before anything remotely frightening happens.
These super 8 films are masterpieces in themselves. It's a sort of car crash effect, as you don't really want to see them, but you can't stop watching. They're all incredibly creepy, unsettling and sinister (like what I did there?) They are also set-up perfectly with the horrible grainy picture, silence as well as highly unsettling music that all adds to the creepiness. All of them are engaging and compelling to watch. They're also very chilling and are sure to engrave themselves into your mind for a long time after the film has finished.
From then on it's an intriguing and creepy mystery as more and more disturbing information is uncovered. It's also clever how it's unclear if some of what Ethan's seeing is actually real or not. Is he really hearing noises or is it just the whisky talking? I liked the whole family element as well, showing the protagonist as not just some perfect hero, but also as a flawed character. The whole strained relationship with his wife is a fantastic element on top of the central ghost story. Although the woman who plays her is incredibly wooden!
There's a strong, unsettling atmosphere that underlies through the whole film. The demon man is also quite frightening and not too much is explained about him which certainly adds to scare factor. I've heard people call this a boring film and a bad film, but it's none of these things. It's a genuinely horrifying horror film with fantastic writing and directing. It's the type of film that gets under your skin and leaves its print in your mind for a long time after the credits have rolled. The ending is one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen in a horror film and I've seen many!
"Sinister" is a ghost story of Japanese proportions. By the end, I was actually terrified and had chills all down my back, which is something that doesn't happen too often. I never get scared watching films, but after this and seeing "Noroi: The Curse" which also frightened me, I was starting to think that I was becoming soft! But then I thought no. These are just brilliantly scary films that are high on atmosphere and don't solely rely on jump scares like too many American ghost films. "Sinister" is one of the best horror films this year. It has a relentless sense of dread throughout and is also incredibly effective and compelling. I can't wait to see it again, and also can't urge you enough to go and see it for yourself! Although, I'd recommend a night light for when you sleep.
Please read my weird and wonderful horror movie review blog! www.asdaman.wordpress.com
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not usually one to write reviews, but after the ridiculous amount
of "Best! Horror! Movie! EVAR!!" reviews, I couldn't help it.
I'll start with something good (Kinda like the "Oreo" method). I thought the acting was good. The family had good chemistry and Ethan Hawke did a great job conveying his horror as he delved deeper into the murders. Also, the "found footage" murder films were VERY creepy and well done.
That said, I can't really come up with anything else good to say about this movie. In my opinion, a good horror movie has either A.) A sufficiently scary monster/ghost/demon, B.) A premise that effects a majority of people (The Strangers) or C.) A combination of both. 'Sinister' has none of this. If you aren't a family with 2 kids who also happen to live in a house where the previous family was murdered, you're safe! That's a pretty small demographic. Also, there's the completely convoluted pattern. Sooo, he gets mad when you move? It's also a bit of "the chicken and the egg". How did the first murder happen? The Pagan Deity this movie centers around was pretty damn creepy in the blurred images we were shown at first. Unfortunately, the director decided "MOAR IZ BETTURR!!" and, just like that, we're supposed to accept that a member of Slipknot has turned to a life of eating children's souls. Add that to the endless cheap jump scares (The boy's night terrors served no other purpose than to provide two cheap, easy scares), an erratic sound track and "BOOM!" sound effects and this movie was a complete let down. I can only assume that the "zOMFG!! The kids did it!!!" was supposed to be what would "f*ck a lot of people up" about this movie. I ramble a bit so I hope this was at least slightly cohesive. In short, give 'Sinister' a pass.
Sinister is very well made horror film. It is the only scary horror film I've seen for a very long time. It's never too cliché as most horror movies are. It never cheats you. The performances are believable and the story is intriguing and always moving. The director has control over his audience, and the audience is completely okay with that. I knew early into the film what kind of horror film it was and I how it would scare me. And that what was one of things it had going for it. You can anticipate the scares and that makes it much more frightening. Do not confuse anticipation with predictability. The movie wasn't too gruesome, which left more room for actual fear. All in all, it is a very good film, So good, it's almost... Sinister...
This movie is a must watch for all the horror fanatics. I really did not expect it to be so good and after watching it am totally impressed. The the sound effects are amazing. The movie is so unconventional and different than most horror movies in a way that it makes you wonder if its a true story. Best part is that it makes you think and there are so many scenes wherein you just want to pause the movie because you just cant handle the intense suspense. Its a must watch and you will not regret for even a single moment, all the more a true horror movie fan would get peace of mind for a good deal of time before they would want to watch another spin chilling horror movie. A fantastic horror movie after a long time!!! I hope a sequel comes out soon to reveal the secrets of the origin of the murderer!
When the trailer boasted the producers of "Paranormal Activity" and
"Insidious" the idea of what tone this film would be reared it's head.
Based around a series of jump scare sequences and slow character
sections in order to attempt to make you feel for the characters while
easing the tension of the situation. It's a tired formula that is
becoming all the more clichéd and repetitive. However Sinister manages
to find ways to break free of these leashes that the horror genre is
becoming tied down to.
Ethan Hawk stars as a true crime writer known as Ellison who moves into a new home with his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and his two children, Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) near the site of a local crime in order to get inspiration for his novel. During an exploration of the house Ellison stumbles across a box with an 8mm camera and a selection of films, which upon viewing exploit gruesome murders. This thrusts area hero into a terrifying mystery as he tries to piece together the meaning behind it all.
With horror films these days we come to know what to expect. We're given characters that we can't connect with merely there to service the plot and an un-original story that we've seen time and time again bringing the audience no sense of engagement. But mostly we're never scared beyond the mere technique of a jump scare. With director Scott Derrickson we are shown again how mainstream horror can creep on us with effective imagery and suggestion. The scares here can be portrayed by just using obscure camera angles and bizarre images that unsettle us. Derrickson understands though that using loud bands and noises to jolt the audience can be done effectively. By backing up these moments with his strong imagery he uses it as a tactic to implant these horrific moments in our minds.
The highlight however is the use of the 8mm films. Sinister is in love with the idea of film, from celluloid to digital as not only are we treated to disturbing super 8 films but Ellison boasts are large collection of VHS tapes of his old achievements. It's a nice, simple touch that film fans will appreciate. These 8mm films though boast some truly graphic sequences, one particularly involving a garden tool. Backed with a moody soundtrack by Christopher Young who's worked on other horror gems such as "Drag Me To Hell" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose". It feels more of an ambiance piece rather than a fully diegetic score merging together a series of dark and effective sounds building the feeling of dread constantly throughout.
Written by Derrickson himself and writer C. Robert Cargill the screenplay manages for the most part to push past the bland formula we've grown to endure with horror films of late. The film brings an intriguing plot that manages to put you in the position of Ellison's character, uncovering the plot and mystery when he does. There are scenes in which are hero re-visits the 8mm films and discovers new elements to them which adds a new depth to the story. The film feels relentless, rarely taking time to slow down and constantly feeling as though it's propelling towards something. However elements of the script are where the weaker parts of the film shine. While managing to bring interesting uses of horror and tension the film often retreads over clichéd ground as though it's trying to keep a warm attitude towards mainstream audiences. These are the times when the film feels as though it may lose focus but always manages to pick up its feet again. Alongside this we have some underused side and poorly written characters such as a police deputy who doesn't feel natural within the whole scale of things.
Sinister may tread over worn ground by it still manages to feel fresh and revitalizing in an age where we've conformed to the degrading standards of horror. It embraces the roots of horror and film in general making it much more than a homage and a feeling of an original yet genuinely terrifying story. Hawk manages to carry the emotional tangent of the narrative while the other characters are merely serviceable. It's not groundbreaking but for a mainstream horror film it takes some inventive and daring steps creating a terrifying, disturbing yet absorbing piece of cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went to watch Sinister with high expectations and to be left a
shivering mess. I thought it would be one of those films where I was
squeezing the arms of my seat, squinting, trying to keep my head
pointed at the screen.
As it turned out I ended up laughing at most of the "fright moments". The scares were predictable, the plot after 20 minutes was obvious and the only real scare I got came at one point where Ethan Hawke has a baseball bat in his kitchen and the camera pans to show a child standing just over his shoulder.
The film takes every scary, supernatural, horror cliché and crams them into 109 minutes. The only thing missing was an Indian Burial ground - they even managed to get the deranged axe murderer into a movie about a Pagan deity. Why is it always Pagan?
Comedy relief is provided by a local policeman who crosses from genius to idiot in the space of 5 minutes, while completely juxtaposing the supposed serious character of Ethan Hawke as a once successful investigative real-life crime author, trying to rekindle the fame he once had.
The acting isn't bad, but it's not brilliant either. The film relies too heavily on the names of the cast and the marketing strategy of "From the makers of Insidious and Paranormal Activity" than any real plot substance. There is nothing new in this film, if you have saw more than a couple of horrors over the last few years then you will find it hard to leave fulfilled.
The ending is slightly unexpected, but not enough to save the film and ultimately it leaves you disappointed. The final scene sums up the whole movie, if they have to give you "one final scare" just before the credits roll then it probably wasn't worth it.
As it turns out the name of the bad guy demi-god was pretty close to how I felt about the film, Bagul was the name Bagul-Crap was how I felt.
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