Sinister (2012)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 8:16 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 6.2/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

SINISTER (2012) - Scott Derrickson

True horror in cinema is when the ordinary meets the extraordinary. It may sound obvious to many people, but many films in the horror genre have failed to portray the ordinary to the point of having the audience truly relate to the characters. When the supernatural enters, what is the best way to draw us in? The answer is not having an abundant amount of scares, but rather having a mysterious agenda that drives us to figure out the truth behind the puzzle. With this clever technique in its favor, Sinister is undoubtedly the greatest horror film of this year so far.

Sinister begins with a family of four being brutally hanged in a backyard tree. The film then follows Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), a true-crime novelist who moves with his wife and two kids into the same house as the murdered family's. Knowing that the murdered family actually had five members, with a daughter missing, Ellison bases his new book on the murder case. He then finds a box in the attic, containing a projector and several Super 8 footage, each film depicting a family being murdered in graphically different ways. This then awakens a demonic spirit that haunts the house, putting Ellison and his family in danger.

Before Sinister even begins to set us into a world of dread, it first spends time to flesh out the personalities of each member of the protagonist's family. Ethan Hawke is the writer who is eagerly trying to write another bestseller, locking himself in his office constantly. His wife, on the other hand, is always looking out for the kids as well as worrying about her husband. They have their arguments and their moments of chemistry. By the time we finally care about them, this is where Sinister starts to kick in the supernatural.

Ethan Hawke provides enough humanism and naturalism in his performance, creating a character who is believable. Although I question his reasons for moving into the same house that a gruesome murder took place, his desires to uncover the truth help us follow him. In fact, some of the greatest scenes in Sinister are the moments where it is just Ethan Hawke, his whiskey, the projector, and the disgusting 8 mm footage that cause him to recoil in fear every once in a while. The idea is simple, but it is what makes Sinister become truly convincing.

Forget Scott Derrickson's previous film, the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Think back to the flick before that, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Derrickson is a clever horror film director. He knows that the scares are not all that matter. What matters is making the characters authentic, to make us really care for them, so that when the scares turn up, we are twice as terrified as before. Although the film itself recycles many horror cliches, those flaws are easily forgiven due to the smart direction and persuasive acting.

Sinister as a whole looks great. The cinematography is clever, however sometimes queuing the audience too much that something creepy is going to appear -- probably the oblique angle shots are more intriguing to the eye. Lighting is key in this film, because after the "perfectly safe" daytime, transitioning to nighttime, Sinister plunges into darkness. However, thinking back, I realized that Ethan Hawke never turned the lights on once. Sinister is a film whose atmospheric effects can only be fully achieved if viewed in a theater. Let the darkness of the theater wrap around the screen, and you will be pulled into the world of the film, maybe pulled in a little too much for your courageous guts.

On a scare basis, Sinister creates the atmosphere with great precision and skill, even better than Paranormal Activity and Insidious. It is excessively eerie, with one of the creepiest soundtracks I have heard in years. Speaking of soundtracks, that is something that the horror genre has truly lost in the past few years. Besides the iconic theme in the Saw franchise, music has constantly lost its effect on the films in the new decade. Here, the soundtrack genuinely enhances the mood of the film, and sometimes the film is smart enough to not have music queues for its scares. As for the actual scares in Sinister, they are considered cheap and not memorable, accompanied by loud noises to make us jump. Yes, they can be labeled as "jump scenes" instead. Do not get me wrong. Sinister is a terrifying movie, but it is not because of the scares, but because of the dread it manages to build with great craft and skill. For genre-picking, I would personally say that Sinister works better as a mystery film than a horror film. In spite of the movie having more potential in its scares, Sinister does have one of the most terrifying movie endings in recent years, which brings me to another point on why Sinister surpasses many of its competitors in the genre.

Many scary movies have the same problem: Plot holes. Almost always they have a promising first act, but squander it in the third act, whether it is a plot twist that makes no sense or an ending that fails to answer questions that the audience has. Too many times have I seen horror films that build its intensity up to the very end, then go downhill unbelievably fast and die away in an ungodly pit labeled "Formulaic Flaws of the Horror Genre." For the ending to Sinister, I would not say is a plot twist, but it reveals and answers a burning question that drove practically the entire movie. It is undoubtedly satisfying and is the best moment in the entire film, memorable and imprint-leaving. By the end, you might just discover that Sinister was clever enough to take the horror genre and give it a variety treatment, almost reviving the supernatural genre, dismissing the Paranormal Activity franchise.

In conclusion, Sinister offered everything out of its genre and more -- it is a deeply gratifying film that promises all of our expectations. Its scares could have been better, more memorable, but it is diabolically creepy. Sinister is truly a frightening movie that provides an engaging storyline, whose narrative rings about the mystery genre more than the horror genre, along with an ending that does not disappoint and performances that do not wear off in time. After viewing, you might just find yourself mentally healing from an adrenaline shot labeled "Sinister (2012)."

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