Sinister – 3/5 Movie Reviews by Ry!

Sinister – 3/5 –   A horror movie is the hardest kind of movie to grade or rate.  The reason horror movies are hard to rate is because they tend to fail in every facet of what makes any other kind good and/or great (characters, story, and common direction).  The one thing that most, if not all horror films, have going for them always is the score.  If it wasn’t for score in most current films of this genre, people wouldn’t be freaking out or scared (The Paranormal Activity films).  This movie, having a lot of obvious moments and typical horror elements, does well in many other degrees of filmmaking that never seem to stand out (character and direction).

The premise follows a novelist who moves in (with his family) to a house where a murder happens.  The reason for the move is he (Ethan Hawke) is beginning to work on a new book that involves the murder and disappearance of the youngest daughter from this home.  He eventually comes across a box containing a set of Super 8 films, that not only has the current murder captured, but a bunch of other murders throughout the years.  As he continues to investigates, the murders start to become linked by a certain figure, and the unraveling of the mysterious murders leads down a path where the novelist can’t turn back from.  The most obvious thing that stands out in this film is the performance by Ethan Hawke.   He plays the novelist, Ellison Oswalt, who is trying to write a new murder novel.  His performance as the writer is what helps (along with the score) builds the tension.  The tension is built by his interactions and reactions to the films he discovers from the box, as well as the continual terror that haunts him in the house throughout the film.  You are in awe of the ‘supposed’ danger that surrounds the house, and generally feel like there is something else at work here.   Outside of this performance, everyone else around him are pretty much standard/stale figures, with bad acting that was laughable.  They felt like typical carbon copies from every other horror film, and become placements or plot devices at certain points of the movie.  I would say if Ethan Hawke didn’t perform so well or wasn’t in this film, this movie would have been bad.

Outside of the characters, the direction of the story felt very fresh.  Most horror movies like to use a lot of ‘in your face’ blood and guts to create shock or develop a sense of terror.  This movie does the reverse.  It implements a lot of slow building through a methodical tone.  This tone is built upon strong eerie sounds and dark lightening to add depth to the investigation by Ethan Hawke’s character.  While this makes the film very inattentive in the beginning, once the Super 8 films are shown, you’re pretty much hooked and curious on what is the link between these murders.   The director does rely on the typical ‘shock’ scares at points in the movie, but the genuine fear that you get feels real and new, and I appreciate a different way it was approached.  There are, at times, very gruesome scenes, but because they are few and far between, it doesn’t become stale and you are truly in shock.

As I mentioned, the music/score does so well in building up the fear.  In typical fashion, you will jump and or block your eyes, but paralleling the one performance and the direction, you tend to brush aside the obvious that happens at times.  This is this way because you’re interested in where the film goes.  By the time climax hit, you think you’re about to get something different, but the obviousness hits again and your expectation of something different turns back to the normal shock techniques of any horror film.

Overall, this film was entertaining.  It does bring a fresh take, albeit with obvious and general elements of any horror film, from beginning to end.  Ethan Hawke does an excellent job, and the direction is subtle but attentive.  Everything else lacks behind these two great points.  I’d recommend for a horror fan, otherwise you can wait for this on rental.

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