Sinister (2012) ***1/2
Many of the movies we all watch in Horrorthon, truth be told, aren't particularly horrifying or even trying to be. This is not one of those. It's fucking scary--biddies stay away. I was actually up late watching this alone last night and ultimately decided it was a "finish in the morning" type movie. In the daylight.
Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer who has moved his family into a house where a brutal murder (of a whole family) has just taken place. In the attic, he finds a box with old 8mm snuff films of similar family murders dating back to the 60s. Right away, during one of these found footage clips, the movie breaks one of the unwritten rules of horror/slasher movies. Don't go after the kids. The director pulls back slightly just as it's going down, but it's still pretty disturbing, and I can imagine that these ritualistic family murders would have had a different (lesser) effect on me were I watching them as a 16 year old.
One thing I liked about this one is that it somewhat surprised me with the direction it took. I didn't know anything about it going in, and the first 30 minutes really had me convinced this was going to be a fun, creepy Silence of the Lambs/Seven type serial killer murder mystery, maybe with some extra chills. But then it takes a clear supernatural turn and starts in on a bunch of J-horror type scares.
I should add that JPX and catfreek both already noted two possible objections to the movie that I was thinking about while watching it: the wife is a silly, nothing character, and the reveal is maybe too demystifying too early. So after a while, it's pretty clear where you're going, and you're just along for the ride, which took away some of the fright for me.