I tend to be a lot more generous in my reviews of any halfway decent modern horror movie. It is because I consider modern horror to be, well not a dead genre but a deeply comatose one. Despite many horror films that come out each year I can count on one or maybe two (if it’s a good year) to be good. The rest are either PG-13 cash in schlock or uninspired garbage. So when I see people going out and legitimately trying to make something compelling, I’m more than willing to forgive its flaws rather than films. Is it fair? Probably not, but I figure it is at least fair to tell you where I’m coming from.
Sinister is about true crime author Ellison (Ethan Hawke) who moves his family into the house of a horrific murder in order to write his latest book which will hopefully elevate him back to stardom. He finds a box in the attic which has super 8 films of previous murders. Ellison is trying to track down the killer but at the same time he is noticing strange events going on about the house.
Probably the thing that stands out and something other reviewers have noted is Hawke and his character. Horror characters usually fall into the virtuous virgin or the baby kicking asshole so it is nice to have an almost noir like flawed hero. Yes he does dickish things but he never seems malicious. Rather he is misguided in both his attempts to be financially secure for his family and his lust for fame. At the core he is a likable guy and you hope he sorts his crap out and comes out a better person. Ethan Hawke does a great job in the main role. I have said for a while Hawke is a woefully underrated actor. He is never going to turn in an Oscar performance but he is always a solid character actor who certainly never detracts from your movie.
The movie also has a nice creepy atmosphere. The super 8 footage is well done and suitably horrific. The tone gets great near the end when it seems like the super 8 world is mixing with the real world. The soundtrack takes on the sounds of the projector with the clicks and snaps and images are seemingly spliced into Ellison’s world. It is at that point everything is coming together to show reality is pandripping away and the acting helps sell it.
Now there are flaws with the story. I won’t spoil it since by the time of my writing it is still in theaters. I say that, but it seems rather pointless since the trailers spoil most of the movie. That is a shame because much of the joy would be in unraveling this mystery only to come in and have the cashier tell you Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time. Aside from that there are flaws with the story. Sure you can forgive some stupidity because otherwise you would never have a horror movie but it gets bad at times. Some of the scares are a little laughable and you may be yelling at Hawke’s character by the end because he really needs to take a hint.
But like I said before I’m willing to forgive those things. Sinister legitimately tries and for the most part succeeds in making a suspenseful little horror film. The characters are compelling and you are interested in seeing what happens to them. The direction is equally as good in bringing the audience in as voyeur and later merging the film world with the real world for a tense atmosphere. The writing lets down the rest of the movie as you can be taken out of the experience by some silly stuff. But if you want to see a horror movie in theaters this year, I don’t think you will be disappointed by Sinister.