Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sinister (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes highly recommends this superbly crafted horror chiller

Scott Derrickson seems to be carving out a career in horror films and if Sinister (2012) is any indication he will be an A list director very soon. With no less than four films and all belonging to the science fiction/horror genre and one of them being the retooling of Steven Spielberg's classic Poltergeist (slated for a release in 2016). A busy camper!

Sinister stars Ethan Hawke as a down and out crime book writer who has moved his family into a "inexplicably cheap house". Since he still has yet to sell his previous home they are on a strapped budget, so he works out of his home office. He specializes in real life crimes, some unsolved and some he helps to solve. He had a big hit with one of his books, but has failed to successfully repeat it. 

His wife (Juliet Rylance) is supportive but dubious of their present relocation. "Please just tell me we are not living two doors down from a suspected serial killer." " We're not", Elliston (Hawke) responds. They are living IN the house of a suspected former serial killer. So I guess he wasn't lying. 

We meet the family of Ellison and THANK GOD they don't dwell on the everyday happenings of the family like so many films do to an annoyance. We get it. They are a family and they love each other, thank you. Now can we start scaring the shit out of some people, now? 

Since you find this out in the first 10 minutes of the film I have ruined nothing. Upon placing some boxes up in the attic, Ellison sees a box lying in the middle of the floor, in an otherwise EMPTY attic, that has a several reels of Super 8 films and a projector. After setting up the projector, he delves into the films. What he finds on each reel I will not describe so you will have to watch. 

Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill have crafted a superb horror film with no nudity, hardly that much cursing and virtually no gore. It is a PG-13 film that relies on the old adage that less is more and it does this extremely well. The use of lighting (or lack thereof) and the reliance of Hawke's performance propels this film and never lets if get bogged down in procedures. 

Sinister is Scott Derrickson's first big hit and a very effective supernatural horror thriller. Unlike his previous hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Sinister is not based on any facts but is one of the creepiest films I have ever seen and, for me it ranks up there with The Exorcist. Yeah, the read it right!

Sinister is a potboiler that builds and builds and it does so quietly and without flashy visuals and CGI nonsense. It relies on Hawke's superb performance as he starts to unravel the mystery which he learns is MUCH more than he originally thought. He pursues the truth further much to the chagrin of the local Sheriff played by a much slimmer looking Fred Thompson. One of the sheriff's deputies that is a little star struck does help Ellison but between the two of them they uncover far more than they bargained for. 

Sinister will not be liked by everyone, as it does take its time but, for me it was very effective in building the suspense and Derrickson knows how and where to place the cameras for maximum creepiness. His use of shadows and ambient sounds ratchet up the tension and Hawke's decent into drink and obsessiveness really pulls the viewers in. 

Christopher Young's score is mix of orchestral chords with bumps and thuds of percussion with some vocal strains thrown in for good measure, suggesting something otherworldly is at hand. There is also a quiet piano that tinkles in the background with a Hammond organ and Theremin that will send shivers down your spine. There are two versions of the score. One is the release that is available from Amazon but there is a longer version that is a promotional copy, if you can find it. It is worth it but just don't listen to it at night by yourself. It will freak you out. 

I would compare this film to an equally efficient Insidious only Sinister is hair creepier. Finally Hollywood is getting back to real horror films and with Scott Derrickson directing, he could be to horror like Wes Craven was back in the 80's. Sinister-***1/2


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