I can’t help but feel a little guilty as I’ve spent the best part of a month bad mouthing this film, even though I hadn’t watched it. My initial dislike for Sinister went so far that when I invited my friends to come see it I simply asked if they ‘wanted to see a shit film’. How glad am I that I was proven wrong. My erroneous initial impressions of Sinister were born from a trailer that succeeded in making it look like every other waste of time modern horror film. I’m looking at you House at the end of the street (2012), which incidentally was the first place I ever saw the sinister trailer. In my defence I still think the trailer for this film sucks, I can’t see the bit with the kid coming out of the box without thinking of the zombies from deadly premonition. Which wasn’t a quirky, unique, and interesting game, it was just crap.
Even when this scene plays out in the actual film I don’t like it, it’s something I’m forever going to hold the trailer responsible for. I must have seen it about 20 times since they started airing it. This is why I tend to get to the cinema in time to miss them; I’ve been misled by the bastards to many times.
Sinister centers on Ellison Oswalt; a washed up true crime writer, who moves his wife and two children into the house of a murdered family, the only survivor seeming to be their missing daughter. While moving in he finds a box containing an 8mm projector and a set of home movies all with seemingly innocuous names. After watching them he discovers that they are the recordings of several other murders, all perpetrated by the same killer. As he digs into these crimes things start to get strange, his son sleepwalks, the projector turns itself on at night, and strange noises can be heard in the attic. These events don’t just leap out at you they are slowly built up. This slow burn technique makes Sinister one of the most suspenseful films I have seen in a long time, the only other film I can liken it to is the excellent Woman in Black (2012) which also used the same techniques. There are some truly shocking moments in Sinister, but it never stoops so low as to rely on blood and guts to do so. Anyone can show a teen being hacked apart with a chainsaw, nod and a wink to Rob Zombie. But it takes a true master to realise that depriving your audience of the gory details is by and far a worse thing to do to our delicate nerves.
Sinisters writer C Robert Cargill has said that he came up with the idea for this movie when he had a nightmare after watching The Ring (2002) and to be honest I spotted this influence a mile off. Which is interesting because I can also see The Ring’s influence in Woman in Black (2012) the only other good horror film released this year (Cabin in the woods is not a horror film). I think it’s the detective element of these three movies that makes them so successful, because we are tied to a protagonist who knows as little as we do. Making this a true journey into horror, and Ethan Hawke plays the part perfectly, he does an excellent job as a man both scared but desperate to get claw some sort of fame back after the two flops he has just produced, ignoring the dangers that most normal people would have walked away from a long time a go. I can’t recommend this film to true horror fans enough, because this is a Horror film; not a slasher, psycho, or gore movie but a horror film in the truest sense; it tries but unnerve you with atmosphere, not with the threat of violence. Yes violence is the pay off because ultimately in a horror film death is the final threat, but this film is about the journey not the destination, unlike so many cheap gore movies fooling themselves into believing they are horror films.
If your unable to get to the cinema to see Sinister or just want to wait for the DVD release then in the meantime I don’t think you could go to wrong if you got yourself a copy of Woman in Black, or if you want a classic Suspiria (1977) by Dario Argento a true master in his day.