I love great horror films, just as I love great cinema in general. Horror is no different than comedy or drama, in the sense that the scares only work if the rest of the film does too. Scott Derrickson’s Sinister is a great example of a horror film that is not only terrifying, but is also a very satisfying film overall.
Originally, I was not sure whether I would write a review of this film or not. It had already been a week since the film had come out, and yet I felt a horror film this interesting deserved credit. October is, of course, a time for studios to release their franchise horror films. Sinister is a refreshing alternative as it is not only an original release, but a thoroughly scary and rewarding film.
Co-written by film blogger C. Robert Cargill, Sinister follows true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt, played by Ethan Hawke, as he moves his wife and kids into the home of a recently murdered family. The basics of the story aren’t particularly original, however, it is how they are handled that makes this film so effective.
Instead of being a found-footage film, Derrickson and Cargill cleverly use a series of 8mm home-movies as the main focus of the film. In a way, Derrickson’s use of found-footage is similar to Antonioni’s Blow-Up or De Palma’s Blow Out, as Hawke’s character becomes obsessed with the disturbing footage he finds. Never leaning too heavily on one type of scare, the 8mm home-movies, that Oswalt finds in his attic, give a nice balance between jump-scares and suspenseful, unnerving moments.
In most haunted-house films, there is a point in which you have to wonder why the characters do not simply move out and abandon the house. This problem is largely avoided, as the script and Hawke’s performance are strong enough that we can sympathize with Oswalt’s need to continue his investigation and his book. It is a clear sign that Derrickson and Cargill cared about the development of these characters as much as they did with scaring the audience.
One element of the film I was quite surprised by, was the unconventional score by Christopher Young. While at times slightly overbearing, as a whole, the score is unique and incredibly creepy.
Sinister is one of the few films that caused a physical reaction out of me, as I nearly jumped out of my seat several times, and it appeared most of the audience did too. It is a terrifying film, one that will keep you from looking out your windows at night, and maybe even from reviewing your old home-movies.