At first glance this movie appeared to be another drop in the infinite found footage bucket. However director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) also pastes together elements from numerous horror sub-genres including the haunted house, the angry ghost, the writer’s descent to madness (a la The Shining) and a dash of you-can’t-escape-fate (Final Destination). The end result is a legitimately unsettling but ultimately forgettable motion picture.
Ethan Hawke stars as a fading crime novelist desperate to prove that his initial success was not a fluke. Unbeknownst to his wife and kids, he moves them into the home where a previous family was mysteriously hung to death in the backyard. His does so hoping for intimate inspiration for his comeback novel. Soon he discovers a box of 8mm reels in the attic that contain footage of the hanging family, in addition to other alarming snuff films. This footage is the most disturbing aspect of Sinister and it is repeatedly shown throughout the course of the movie in a highly effective manner.
As you can probably surmise, freaky and/or spooky things start to take place, Ethan Hawke’s sanity gets questioned and the family faces grave danger. It’s a satisfactory movie and those of you who can’t get enough of the paranormal stuff will have a good ol’scary time. However in my opinion paranormal movies have worn out their welcome to the point where they now have a stranglehold on modern horror cinema. Sinister simply does not add enough (or any) new ideas to justify its existence.
I have one other minor complaint regarding his downbeat wife. From beginning to end the character of Tracy Oswalt is given nothing constructive to say or do. She dismisses her husband’s novels as trashy and depraved, she threatens to take the kids and leave him if his new book fails and she takes the opposite stance in virtually every given situation (and the British accent only adds a whiff of snobbish condescension).
O’well, see it if you must but don’t come crying to me if you walk away feeling indifference. Check out Trevor’s review for an alternate appraisal.