Posted October 12, 2012 by in


Total Score

1.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: horror
Director: Scott Derrickson
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Ethan Hawke
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: 10/12/2012
Studio: Alliance Films (presents), Automatik Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions, IM Global (in association with), Possessed Pictures
What We Thought

Storywise, nothing happens in Sinister until the end. Sinister is all backstory, with nothing happening in the present moment. There’s no pressure, no deadline. We spend two hours waiting for something, for anything, to happen.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
Sinister isn’t so bad if you’ve seen The Apparition.  That’s a left-handed compliment, but it’s appropriate given the title and the film’s execution.
     The Story:  it’s been 10 years since Ellison Oswalt’s hit true crime book, Kentucky Blood.  Ellison (Ethan Hawke) moves his family to King County, where a mother, father, and their two children were recently murdered.  The body of the family’s third child Stephanie was never found.  Ellison researches the case, hoping to write the next In Cold Blood.  However, he doesn’t tell his wife that they’ve moved into the very house where the murders took place.
     As the Oswalts settle in, Ellison discovers a box in the attic.  The box contains several reels of Super-8 film, each depicting in graphic detail the murder of a family, including the King County murders.
     Meanwhile, Ellison’s twelve-year-old son has night terrors in their new house.  Ellison hears footsteps when his family sleeps, and the Super-8 projector starts playing on its own.
     A good horror film is a tough trick to pull off.  It must have the right amount of light—just enough to suggest dangers, but not so little that it conceals them in a blanket of shadows.  Unfortunately, Sinister is guilty of the latter.  You can hardly see a damn thing in this movie.  As an exercise in underexposure, this film gets an “F.”
     Storywise, nothing happens in Sinister until the end.  Ellison watches reel after reel, which is all backstory, but nothing is happening now.  There’s no pressure, no deadline.  In The Ring, the mother has seven days to break the ghost’s curse, or her child will die.  Here, we’re waiting for something, for anything to happen.
     Sinister‘s problem is its premise.  If I can’t talk you out of it, read no further.
     Ok, for the last 50 years, Bughuul—the entity that torments Ellison—waits for a family to move in to a home where he murdered the previous inhabitants by controlling the children.  He then torments the family until they move out, and then murders them in their new home via the children once again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
     This doesn’t make sense.  He had to start fresh at some point, and murder a family in a home where he had not previously murdered another family.  Given his starting point, why wait until the next family moves?  What purpose does waiting for them to move serve?
     So, given the film’s premise, nothing can happen, nothing changes. Bughuul’s hands are tied, and Ellison is just as passive.  His lackeys do much of the research for him, and he doesn’t solve the case himself.
     As a possession story, the kids get too little screen time.  The movie spends too much time on Ellison and the previous murdered families, instead of developing the children and investing us in their salvation.
     Sinister is a B movie that relies on jump scares and loud noises to startle the audience.  It has only a couple of genuinely creepy moments in its entire running time, and both are given away in the trailers, dulling their edge.  But that’s a trailer’s job, to ruin the movie.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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