Sinister (2012) Review


Release Date: October 12, 2012

Director: Scott Derrickson

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone

Runtime: 110 min

Tagline: Once you see him, nothing can save you.

Ellison Oswalt is a struggling writer whose last big hit was ten years ago. He and his family move into a house, in order for him to pursue a book idea. He’s moved them into a house a few doors down from a crime scene before, but he didn’t do that this time – he moved them into the house the actual crime scene took place. He finds a box of Super 8 films in the attic, that help him learn how and why the people who owned the house before them were murdered. This puts them in the path of a dangerous children soul-eating Ancient Pagan God by the name of Bughuul.

I’d like to say first that I’m not used to supernatural horror, because it just scares the hell out of me. Even for lovers of supernatural horror, this is a terrifying feature.

The film is flawed in terms of the latter segment of the film, it suffers from a few horror clichés, and at times I had trouble believing some of the stuff that was going on. Despite its flaws, there is a lot to love about it.

Sinister is deeply dark, wickedly atmospheric, and inventive. It’s so twisted and convulted, that you just may ask yourselves, “Okay, which Stephen King book is this based on?” It relies more on its pretty great story, and its atmosphere, rather than those lame ass uneffective pop-out scares you see in traditional horror. There is a fair share of pop-out scares, but they’re very effective thanks to the great score and the sounds that go bump in the night.

I know everyone would, or should be if they’re in a right state of mind, be terrified of moving into a possibly haunted house. I know I would.

Jennifer Lawrence, in the horror film House at the End of the Street that was released in September, fell victim to that typical horrid dumb blonde in horror movies cliché, and while Ethan Hawke isn’t as stupid as her character in this, he does have his own fair show of falling victim to those old-as-Santa-Claus horror cinema clichés. Seriously, one would think that the great Ethan Hawke would have the common sense to turn on a freaking light. When I hear the slightest noise in the night, I get out of bed with a light saber, ready to chop Darth Maul in half, if that’s what is needed. This guy, he just seems to take a swig of whiskey and go right to the noise with shocked curiosity. I wonder if Jessica Chastain in next year’s Mama is going to fall victim to these lame ass clichés? Probably.

Okay, okay. At least he got a baseball bat at one point in the feature.

One thing that I just had the hardest time believing, is how the family isn’t hearing any of the crap that’s going on in the house. They must be heavy sleepers. Like, heavier sleepers than corpses. Ellison might as well just be the only character in the film in most scenes.

Ellison’s insistence to stay in the house can get a little drastic. He thinks he’s helping his wife by not telling her, but he really isn’t. I know I would have when all this supernatural stuff starts to happen. Ellison is just so bent on having another bestseller, that he sort of just feels distant from his family. Greed really begins to consume him.* This film really shows that writers can have stressful lives. Ellison is always cracking open his bottle of whisky, hardly sleeping at all, and he practically only has the one wardrobe. At least when he’s being scared half the death, he’ll have a comfy sweater on.

*If you’re a kid, Bogghul will consume you, too.

The film is generally dark. Both thematically and that the dimly lit scenery. It isn’t very easy on the eyes, but it’s ultimately effective. This is a piece of impressive filmmaking with great direction, and some Super 8 films that are both graphic and chilling, and they add in to the great horror crime mystery, and really make this one stand out. It is combined well with the general cinematography. The tie-in of crime is really something nice, and the mythology is pretty interesting, too.

With some horror films, you may have the tendency to get scared when that big old sun, that often brings a sense of security to the viewer, go down. Since, of course, you know that the evening is the best setting for scares to occur. With this one, man, I was terrified. There was sweat on my palms by the end of it all.

Often, once a year, we should expect at least one great horror gem. For me, 2011’s was Scream 4. And this year, so far, The Cabin in the Woods is the gem. Sinister is a close second, and easily the scariest film of 2012. And, possibly, one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen.

There’s this one really cool, but chillingly terrifying sequence, that has impressive cinematography, nice slow motion action and is quite original. I won’t say anymore about that scene, because it really is cool to watch play out.

The great thing about this film is its wicked atmosphere. The tone was set right from the get go, with the opening graphic scene.
Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley, and Fred Dalton Thompson star.

Sinister has some fine direction, and a nice story, but it still suffers from clichés, a poor could-have-been-so-much-better latter half of the film. Its atmosphere is something that one could easily love, or just as easily loathe. Sinister may not be the finest horror film of 2012, but it certainly is the most frightening.


8 thoughts on “Sinister (2012) Review

  1. I loved the atmosphere and main character, so a few cliches and Ellison’s dogged insistence that they stay in the house don’t bother me. Besides, I liked the fact that he never turns on the lights; it makes it that much easier for things to hide in the shadows. Good review.

    1. Haha, true enough, it didn’t bother me VERY much, but I had to pick at something, right 😉 I certainly would think a character would be smart enough to simply flick on a light switch. Thanks 🙂

  2. I always hope that when I recommend a movie, those that follow my advice will appreciate it just as much. Glad to see you enjoyed it. Yes there are clichés, but honestly all horror films rely on certain well worn clichés.

    “Sinister may not be the finest horror film of 2012…” What’s your pick? Cabin in the Woods? Would you consider Prometheus a horror film?

    1. Yeah, all are cliché ridden, it’s really hard to avoid, but I always feel I must pick on the most vibrant ones lol. I leave the small ones that they just knicked at, alone. Yeah, Cabin in the Woods. It’s not pure horror as much as horror comedy, but I just love it. I still have to watch Prometheus. What’s your pick of the best 2012 horror film?

      1. So I don’t think I would consider Prometheus horror as much as it is Sci-Fi. Cabin in the Woods is a better movie, but Sinister actually scared me.

      2. Okay, I’ll have to check that one out soon enough. Yeah, that’s true. I’ll Sinister that it’s horrifying, but Cabin is my favourite, and in general high up on the list of my favourite 2012 films. What’s your pick for the best horror movie of 2012?

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