Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sinister (2012)

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a struggling and desperate true-crime novelist. He’s searching for some much needed inspiration, so he moves his family to a small and quiet town. The new house has a disturbing history: the previous tenants were brutally murdered by an unknown suspect. Ellison ignores a warning from the local sheriff, and his wife, Tracey (Juliet Rylance) isn’t aware of the crucial details surrounding the murders.

During a routine trip to the attic, Ellison finds a box with a film projector and various reels of Super 8 footage. Each reel contains footage of brutal and horrifying murders. The murders are carefully planed out, and Ellison is clearly terrified after watching each reel. Ellison has found the big break he was looking for, and with the help of Deputy So-And-So (James Ransone), Ellison digs deeper into the series of suspiciously related murders.

Ellison continues his research, but a series of bizarre incidents disrupt the early drafts for his new book. After a few strange nights of the film projector playing by itself, showing the one murder that happened in the new home, Ellison seeks the help of Professor Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio). When it comes to demons and the occult, Jonas is an expert, and he explains the history of the reoccurring figure in the Super 8 reels. Bughuul (or Mr. Boogie) is an evil pagan deity, who can possess children, and force them to murder their families. And Bughuul uses films (or photos) as a gateway to the real world.

Ellisson’s son, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) suffers from a severe case of night terrors, and his daughter, Ashley (Clare Foley) has a bad habit of painting on the walls. Ashley and Trevor show signs of odd behavoir after Bughuul’s first appereance, which leads Ellison to one disturbing question: Are his children Buguul’s next victims?

Scott Derrickson is the same man, who directed The Day The Earth Stood Still remake, but I’m a fan of his work on horror films. Derrickson is the only man, who directed a respectable straight-to-video Hellraiser film (Inferno), and his work for The Last Exorcism Of Emily Rose is something to admire. Sinister is loaded with some great tension, and Derrickson provides some good jump scares every now and then.

With the exception of the bloody finale, Derrickson takes a restrained approach to the gory stuff here. The restrained approach creates more terror and shock, because instead of seeing endless piles of blood and guts, Derrickson gives the audience the idea of gruesomeness, and he pulls the plug at the right moment. For example, Ellison watches a murder that involves a lawnmower. The killer quietly pushes the lawnmower across the yard, and then BAM! He or she ploughs the lawnmower across a helpless victim’s face. But Derrickson just shows the initial contact, not the bloody aftermath. This approach leaves you with that “holy shit that must’ve been brutal!” feeling.

Ethan Hawke is a convincing leading man, and the supporting cast is decent enough. I was hoping for more scenes with Vincent D’ Onofrio. You’ll only see him in a few online chat sessions with Hawke, but D’ Onofrio showed some potential, as the knowledgeable professor, who’s willing to lend a helping hand.

I can’t ignore the horror clichés (you have to expect this from mainstream horror flicks), but Sinister kicks into a frightening and chilling high gear, as the story develops. Plus, the final twists deliver some great shocking surprises. Oh, and speaking of shocking surprises, try to ignore the poster for this film, because Sinister’s feature movie poster gives away a major spoiler.

Final Rating: 8/10

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