VOD film review: Sinister
James R | On 28, Oct 2013
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance
Ellison (Ethan Hawke) is a true crime writer, chasing after money and fame after his only major success 10 years ago. Moving his family into the house of a missing child, he starts to investigate the nasty murders of the people who used to live there. Hung from a tree in the backyard, their bodies were found the day after – with no sign of wee daughter Stephanie.
Within hours, he finds some old Super 8 film in the attic. Needless to say, bad things start happening. Why would anyone investigating a gruesome killing move their family into the crime scene? Why wouldn’t they leave straight away when bad things happen? Why wouldn’t Ellison call the cops – or at least tell his wife?
Former film blogger C Robert Cargill solves some of those problems on paper, helped in practice by the eerie execution of director Scott Derrickson. Together, they deliver jumps that, although sometimes clichéd, always result in effective, jolting scares.
As the terrified lead, meanwhile, Hawke carries the fear brilliantly with his earnest charisma. It’s refreshing to have an unreliable narrator in a horror film who’s male rather than female, especially when his freaked-out face is so hauntingly believable. The rest of Ellison’s family is equally good, although the show is stolen by the local cop, who gets all the best lines.
But at its heart, Sinister’s smart, simple setup – a man watching scary movies – is its strength. (Plus it gets bonus points for having a character called Deputy So & So.) Haunted house, check. Freaky children, check. Sinister is a classic American horror movie – and all the better for it.