I’ll be honest – when I first saw the name and the movie poster, I almost felt like Sinister would be a confirmed bust. However, the moment the movie started I immediately felt foolish for having doubted Scott Derrickson’s film before having even seen it. Horror movies rarely leave me feeling genuinely scared. You know what I mean – that check under your bed, over your shoulder, pray a little bit more kind of fear. This movie is one of few that have ever managed to make me feel genuinely unnerved and is a great time for anyone looking to get feel frightened.
The plot follows Ellison ( Ethan Hawke) a writer who moves his family to a new location to investigate the tragic and bizarre murder of a family and the disappearance of their youngest daughter. The film does a lot well in terms of distinguishing itself from other haunted house stories and manages to feel grounded at the same time. There’s a real sense of mystery and supernatural unease which makes the horror of the film more unpredictable and sinister as the title would suggest.The focus on realism helps these moment feel more intense.
Characters are given serious time to pause, think, and converse about issues so every decision feels meaningful. This helps keep consequences feel earned. Performances are great all around. Ethan Hawke kills it in his role and comes off eager to the point of arrogance and caring all at the same time. He’s complex and his motivations make you hate and sympathize with him at the same time. The plot of the movie feels somewhat ridiculous if you spend enough time to think about, but because of all the decisions in aesthetic and acting to keep everything serious – I felt comfortable in ignoring my disbelief and just getting caught up in the sheer terror of it all.
The film focuses on the discovery of a series of horrifying film reels. Each scene recounting these reels had me hiding behind my covers. Despite watching the movie four times, one scene still manages to get me every time. The score that accompanies these short movies is haunting and highlights how out of place and unknown the source of the violence is.
The dark gritty palette and the great lighting keeps the mood ominous and unnerving throughout the piece. I never felt safe during a nighttime scene and remember relishing the daylight scenes because at least nothing awful would happen(?). Derrickson knows how to build up mystery and intrigue with macabre imagery so longer horror sequences are chilling. Sound editing is on point and the score only helps accentuate the fear. The juxtaposition with pure moments of silence keeps the film sound dynamic. Unfortunately, the film almost feels like it has too many of these sequences – with some of them feeling less consequential than they should have. I wish that a few of these moments were cut or shortened – a movie 20 minutes shorter would have been ideal. This problem only becomes really noticeable on repeat viewings so take that into consideration.
Furthermore, while the movie feels scary, I did feel a bit betrayed by certain creative decisions. Perfectly horrifying scenes are accompanied with random noises – cue the stereotypical jump scare. If you know me , you should know I really dislike them – but the set up towards the scares always felt so creative that I was never too upset. They definitely fulfilled their intended role in making me shriek.
TLDR: Sinister is a delightful horror movie that’s packed with a flurry of terrifying moments. Though there are some plot flaws and slight pacing issues, I can wholeheartedly say I was left scared after watching it.
Final Rating: 8.8/10. Good, scary, horror movie. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a good movie to scare some friends or just want an interesting supernatural movie that plays with genre expectations in a satisfying way.
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!