Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Juliet Rylance
Running Time: 110 min
Release: October 5th
Horror can be a very subjective thing. To some people The Exorcist is the scariest film of all time, and to others it’s dated and boring. But subjective or not there’s no denying the visceral thrill that comes with seeing a really effective, creepy horror film. And so we come to the latest chiller from the folks behind Paranormal Activity, who take that film’s formula for success (Haunted house + limited cast x found footage = $$$!) and adds some Ethan Hawke goatee into the mix.
The plot sees Hawke as a troubled novelist who moves himself and his family into a house where an unsolved murder took place, with the aim of writing a bestselling book based on the crime. Upon discovering a box of old films in the attic that depict several other murders he sets about trying to discover who made the films, and who (or what) is the eerie “Mr Boogie” who can be seen in each one. His obsessive investigation places himself and his family in danger, as the truth is far more shocking than he could possibly realize.
Opening with the haunting image of a family being hung from a tree, the film sets its tone early. Sinister may not have the most original premise and it certainly doesn’t have any impressive special effects, but it has what any good horror film really needs: atmosphere. It has a lean, stripped down quality and takes it’s time to build up suspense. Likewise, the home movie footage that plays throughout has some genuinely nightmarish imagery, which is reinforced by the films pulsating—and yes, sinister—score.
Performance wise the film really is Hawke’s show, as the other characters are presented with only surface level development. He does a good job of remaining sympathetic, even as his obsessive investigation begins to threaten his family’s safety. Unfortunately the film gets decidedly silly in the third act, and once the motives of “Mr Boogie” are revealed the film ramps up on the annoying “BOO!” jump scares. This all but kills the atmosphere that had been built up to that point, and the “shocking” twist ending can be seen coming from a long way off.
It may not be perfect but there’s no denying that when Sinister works, it really works. Those looking for a good old fashioned haunted house film, one that relies on pacing and tension, will find plenty to enjoy. Particularly that lawn mower jump…