Blumhouse Productions is making quite a name for itself for delivering horror hits such as “Paranormal Activity” and the well-received “Insidious.” The studio’s latest endeavor, “Sinister,” is a welcomed relief this Halloween season—a departure away from the usual gory slasher-flick that dominates the American horror genre. One of the greatest pleasures (or terrors) of watching “Sinister” is the overwhelming sense of eeriness and creepiness that makes the whole ordeal incredibly uncomfortable. The mood and tone of the film is well-conceived and well-executed, gluing thrill seekers and horror movie veterans to their seats in anticipation of what’s coming next.
True-crime novelist Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves his family into a house that also happens to be the crime scene for the current book he’s working on. The move was also made so he can better investigate the case of the missing girl who belonged to the family that was murdered in the house in the 1970s. When moving in, Ellison discovers a black box containing home movies shot in Super 8 film. Upon watching the first video, Ellison stumbles on footage of the family being shot to death. Each subsequent video is of different families from different places being murdered in their own homes while someone watches. This investigation leads Ellison down a supernatural path and puts him at ends with his own family and, ultimately, their safety.
“Sinister” started off strong, with an intense opening scene that set the tone for the rest of the film. Director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill were clever in the way in which they alluded to gore and brutality without ever having to show the gruesome scenes, and in many ways that makes “Sinister” much more chilling and creepy to watch. At the center of the film is Ethan Hawke, who manages to pull off an admirable and extremely convincing portrayal of an obsessed writer who has finally met his match in a case he can never hope to solve. Ellison’s descent into fear, desperation and helplessness is a highlight of the film as we see the him emotionally and mentally tortured.
“Sinister” is a solid movie up until the very end when it blindsided audiences with a rather abrupt and very anticlimactic ending. The film has so much potential, yet it falls flat in its final moments. Many were expecting an unusual ending like that of “Insidious,” but it seems as though “Sinister” chose a more simplistic path and stuck to that instead of spinning the web of terror any further. There were also moments in the film that didn’t seem to belong there other than for the “jump” factor, but Derrickson was able to work those into the film without exhausting the method.
Despite its flaws, “Sinister” is still a great scare, and a much-appreciated departure from overworked franchises like “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity.”