Starring: Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket), James Ransone (The Next Three Days), Juliet Rylance
Director: Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Writers: Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes
Release Date: October 5th (UK), October 12th (US)
Good horror films are hard to come by these days; they just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Everything is either found footage, torture porn, or a remake. But then comes Sinister, an interesting beast that combines both classic and modern scares to create a film that should have you whimpering in your seat by the end.
The story of Sinister is simple and easy-to-follow. The majority of the story stays confined to a single house and we are very closely tied to the main character of Ellison (Hawke). The film uses the found footage concept as a story device rather than an excuse and creates a mixture of filmmaking techniques to create something different and unsettling. The film’s start is a little plodding, providing not enough story or thrills. But about halfway through the second reel, the film kicks into gear and becomes both engaging and terrifying. The conclusion may leave some disappointed, but you won’t leave completely unsatisfied.
The entire film is held together from start to finish by a tremendous performance by Hawke. His character is both reckless and determined, putting aside everything for his goal. You feel everything he feels: from his frustration with his family to his utter shock when he sees something horrific. It’s good that he delivers so well because they rest of the cast is so-so. Ransone does decent work as a local deputy, and D’Onofrio’s role is important but little more than a cameo. The main sore spot is Juliet Rylance as Ellison’s wife; she’s just too overdramatic and doesn’t sell her lines in a way that makes me believe her grief as much as Hawke manages to. I’ve looked into her history to find she’s mainly a stage actress, which does explain a lot.
But what about the scares? That’s what you watch horror for, right? I’m glad to say the killings in Sinister are as ingenious and inventive as anything you’ve seen in a Saw movie, but much more believable and not as ridiculous. A kill involving a lawnmower is particularly gut wrenching. Like any good horror movie, it doesn’t show you everything; only enough to create a mental image that’s probably scarier. The cinematography is basic but effective, whilst the found footage photography looks completely genuine. The score, meanwhile, becomes very overbearing at points particularly during the found footage scenes; I thought it would be much scarier if they left those sections silent.
In conclusion, Sinister is a great horror film that I can see myself watching during Halloween movie nights. It stumbles and falls into a couple of traps, but always picks itself up and keeps moving. See it if you can handle it.
FINAL VERDICT: 8/10