*** (3 stars)
Anyone who has seen The Exorcism of Emily Rose or The Day the Earth Stood Still would not have high hopes for Scott Derrickson’s latest contribution to the big screen. However, Sinister fails to disappoint, I was both captivated and terrified.
Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a well-known author of true crime books, still riding in the success of his bestseller, Kentucky Blood. He is desperate to find another winning story and avoid going back to writing school textbooks. Ellison moves his family to a house outside a small town in Pennsylvania that was previously owned by a family that were discovered brutally murdered, and the daughter missing. Hiding this from his family, he discovers that there is much more to the story than he initially suspected, and becomes obsessed with the case beyond reasoning.
Sinister received mixed reviews, some felt that the plot was too flawed and over-clichéd, whereas others were impressed with the scares and pleased with the way the narrative unfolded. I find myself somewhere in the middle. A good horror film is one that scares, and that it did. In an age where “torture porn” is considered an actual genre, I was relieved to watch a horror with a classic edge, focusing on the tension and anxiety that keeps you on the edge of your seat as opposed to the other kind of “gore fest” that requires little talent (after all, anyone can splatter blood over the walls and rip the intestines from a dumb blonde’s stomach). Whilst I agree that Sinister did have its fair share of “cliché moments”, they were done in a refreshing and original way. For example, the use of “snuff tapes” is by no means original. However, it was weaved into the storyline in both a frightening and sophisticated manner. My only real issue with the film was the ending, which left me slightly unsatisfied and unsettled.
Anyone who is a fan of horror should definitely check this one out (and avoid The House at the End of the Street at all costs!) My only advice would be to stay away from the trailers as they give too much away and heighten your expectations a little too much.