The third day of Halloween

Movie Review: Sinister

By Dalton Martin
With sequels becoming more frequently common in Hollywood, especially in the horror genre, it is nice to see fresh blood when it decides to come along. So instead of going to the fourth Paranormal Activity movie, the current heavy weight of the horror genre, I decided to check out the fresher option Sinister.

Right out the gate you know this film is going to damage your psyche, opening with film shot from a Super 8 camera showing a family of four being strangled by being hung from a tree. It picks up months later and we are introduced to the crime novelist Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke from Gattaca and Brooklyn’s Finest), his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance), and their two kids Trevor and Ashley (Clare Foley). The family moves into their new home so Ellison can get inspiration for his new book about the murders of the four family members and the little girl who went missing. He stumbles upon a lone box in the attic labeled “Home Movies”, which contains the Super 8 camera and five film containers labeled with innocent titles like “Family Hanging Out” and “BBQ 67’”.

What is on the films will shock a few, especially if you were freaked out by the opening. Let’s just say the titles aren’t so innocent after all, and be glad the film avoids showing the entirety of the one called “Lawn Work”. Around this time in the movie you’ll realize that Sinister is different from the generic horror films that just follow the template of finding the most gruesome ways to kill off some really “touchy- feely” teens. This movie messes with you psychologically, and that my opinion deserves some major props. These films don’t just mess with poor Ellison, who drinks around 25 whiskey shots through the whole movie, but also the audience.

Ellison then connects the dots when he discovers a packaging top with kid drawings of the events on the films with a person labeled Mr. Boogie with each missing child, who he then notices in the films. Turns out Mr. Boogie is some Pagan deity named Buhguul (pronounced baa-ghoul) who kidnaps children to devour their souls. Here the movie decides to throw in some “pop-up” scares with close ups of Buhguul and the missing children appearing suddenly. The rest of the movie is yours to discover.

Overall I loved the psychological thriller that it was. It steered away from mindless killing, and actually had a decent story, a rarity for horror movies. You feel pity for Ellison who’s struggling to have his 15 minutes of fame and be a breakout novelist. Ethan Hawke did a superb job depicting Ellison’s terror at witnessing what is on the films and you begin to develop a feeling that maybe Ellison is just going crazy from witnessing such sinister films even. On the downside, the movie puts so much reliance on story and mood that it forgets it is horror movie, only shelling out cheap scares on occasion. The only character that really developed was Ellison; you might as well have not even have given the other characters names, which I think the writer decided to do since one poor guy was literally dubbed Deputy So and So.

With its minor shortcomings, Sinister has the ability to become a nice series (don’t rule out a sequel thanks to the open ending). All it needs to work on is revamping the terror, developing the characters more so, and personally I want to know more about Buhguul. What it needs to keep is the mood it gives off, the psychological terror it emanates, and the awesome soundtrack helps by creepily settling in the mood of terror. On that note I give Sinister a must see!