Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone, Fred Dalton Thompson
Plot: A struggling true crime writer moves into a house where its previous owners were murdered, hoping to unravel the mystery and turn it into a bestselling book. He discovers a super 8 film projector and some reels of film depicting that murder and a few other killings as well. As he connects them together, he realizes that he is in over his head against something he isn't prepared for.
Review: Finally the horror filmmaking machine comes out with a winner. It's tough to find a really scary movie these days when there is so much CGI and borrowed ideas being used to make horror films. But not Sinister.
Scott Derrickson, whose previous two films The Exorcism Of Emily Rose and The Day The Earth Stood Still turned out rather lackluster, comes good at last with this one. Although Sinister shares a lot of similarities with Insidious and Paranormal Activity with its setting of a haunted house (their producers are also the same), it sets itself apart from those films through the use of a super 8 film projector. The chilling opening sequence proves that this method works.
But this isn't a film that piles on the scares one after the other. Derrickson creates a sense of dread throughout the film, slowly raising the tension instead of throwing cheap shocks every five minutes. The films showing the murders themselves are quite disturbing even though most of the violence is suggested rather than seen. There's something very uncomfortable about watching them with the ticking sound of the projector in the background and the grainy quality of the film, combined with some eerie music by Christopher Young (he deserves credit for that). It's truly unnerving, I'll attest to that.
Ethan Hawke is excellent as Ellison Oswalt, the writer who moves into the house with his family. He is basically a guy who's trying to come up with a bestselling book after his last two failures, and thinks the murders of the previous house owners will give him just that. His gradual transformation from curious investigative writer to an obsessive and desperate man is very convincing. In fact, Hawke pretty much carries the whole film as he is in nearly every scene. Juliet Rylance provides solid support as his wife while James Ransone is great as the deputy sheriff who lightens up the film from time to time with some humour.
There were a couple of elements in Sinister that could have been improved, which I won't spoil for you. But needless to say, it doesn't distract the viewer from feeling tense as the film moves towards its creepy conclusion.
If a horror film manages to spook me enough to lose some sleep, then I know it is that damn good. Sinister is such a film. Recommended. (4/5)