By: Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie
Directed by: Scott Derickson (Hellraiser: Inferno, Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Starring: Ethan Hawke (Taking Lives, Daybreakers), Juliet Rylance, James Ransone (Broken City, Prom Night)
Ellison (Ethan Hawke) is a writer who follows unsolved crime stories and writes books investigating them himself. He had a bestseller ten years ago called “Kentucky Blood” but hasn’t had a hit since. So he moves his family into a new home where the family occupying the house had been murdered with the exception of a little girl, who was missing. Desperate for another hit book and buried under pressure from his unknowing and un-patient wife, Ellison works diligently to solve the case of the missing little girl for his new book. After coming across a box of videos in the attic of the family that was murdered he realizes he may be opening a door to something he won’t be able to walk away from.
Ethan Hawke delivers a performance we aren’t used to in horror films. He plays a character not sure of his own true motives. He wonders whether he is putting his family through this to save a missing child or to prove he can write a great book after his last several have failed. He closes himself off from his family out of obsession with the book yet never goes off the deep end. He is reserved and does a great job showing his inner turmoil using subtle facial expressions and line delivery rather than going off the deep end and overacting. You can sense his fear without being told about it. It’s a refreshing performance for a genre not known for its acting. Especially since for the majority of the film he’s the only one on screen.
Most of the horror in Sinister comes from the found footage video reels we view alongside Ellison. They document several terrible incidents; one in particular involving a lawn mower that is extremely unsettling. A lot of the other scenes meant to frighten though are much less original and less disturbing. Even with the slow burning suspense of the film; the ending scene comes fast and is slightly disappointing. It always felt as though the scares could have been taken a step further.
Sinister has a nice platform to tell a horror story and a capable actor in a role that fits him perfectly. At times the slow pace is perfectly suspenseful, leading us to believe we are in for an emotionally scarring climax (in a good way). At other times it had me rolling my eyes as plot lines were re-enforced over and over again (We get it, he needs a new bestseller!) and left me wondering if the film had enough time left after an hour and fifteen minutes passed to truly frighten. The footage Ellison finds delivers a lot of extremely eerie sequences but when the horror begins to occur in real time Sinister loses its originality and feels like a different film entirely.
The whole story and feel of the film though is pleasantly creepy and it’s ultimately a well-made horror film that unfortunately falls short of being as memorable or frightening as I’d hoped. It may not have been as scary as I would have liked, but it is a good film that happens to be horror. That’s rare enough to appreciate a little. 7/10