Sinister (2012)

Sinister (2012)
  • Time: 110 min
  • Genre: Horror | Mystery
  • Director: Scott Derrickson
  • Cast: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone


True-crime writer Ellison Oswalt moves himself and his family into a house where a horrific crime took place earlier, but his family doesn’t know. He begins researching the crime so that he can write a new book about it to help his flailing career. He uses some “snuff” film footage he finds in the house to help him in his research, but he soon finds more than he bargained for. There is a figure in each of the films but who or what is it? As a result, his family start to suffer (as does he) and things take a turn for the worse. Will they survive?

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  • Coming up with new concepts for movie genres isn’t as easy it seems. For every new creation, there’s always a bit of material borrowed from prior work. Sometimes these parts are taken from the same creators or from others. As long as it’s not done verbatim, most film studios and filmmakers don’t receive too much criticism over such details. Other than The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) remake (which many didn’t find engaging), director Scott Derrickson hasn’t had much trouble making his own films with lifting various aspects of other films and putting it into his. The ability to do that without being obvious about it is important because it keeps things interesting for generations to come later on. For what is presented here, it shows promise but wistfully, this horror film has about as many positives as it does negatives.

    The story is about family man one-hit-wonder writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) trying to make one more comeback after a series of failures. Oswalt is an unusual writer; instead of writing about fiction or other imaginary things, he delves into actual crime cases and digs further into what may have been missed by police officials. After moving in with his family into the exact home of which a gruesome murder took place, he finds a box full of Super 8 films in the attic that turn out to be snuff films of several murders. The writing, which was drafted by Scott Derrickson and first time writer C. Robert Cargill has a wonderfully interesting premise. The beginning to this story is one giant question and the mystery behind it is purely disturbing. What doesn’t work as a whole is the last half of the running time. With not much else said, the execution becomes highly predictable making it a tensionless conclusion.

    To say that the actors involved in this production can’t act wouldn’t be truthful. All thespians involved act as their character was written. The problem is how the characters were written. Woefully, Ellison is one of those forgetful fathers who tends to lose track of what’s important to him when it comes to work and family. Mrs. Oswalt (Juliet Rylance), Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley) feel like a family but there’s barely a side explored where the they have fun. Most of it is about them having friction against each other and not disturbing daddy from his work. For almost two hours, there could’ve been a little something added. This is a problem because this doesn’t exactly make the family very likable. On the other hand, there are other characters more interesting than they are. James Ransone plays a cop who looks to help Mr. Oswalt uncover more information about the gruesome cases. The other is an uncredited performance by Vincent D’Onofrio as a professor who specializes in the supernatural.

    The final actor that makes a notable performance is Nicholas King who portrays the main antagonist (Bughuul) and of whose face of the franchise is represents. Although King doesn’t actually give Bughuul much of a distinguished personality, the look of him is quite memorable with such a uniquely ghoulish face. With that also leads to some mostly effective chilling scenes. It is rated R but the gore isn’t what makes it that. The gore is in fact almost none existent (which may upset some). It’s not so much scary although some jump scares work as well. The cinematography shot by Chris Norr is adequate but isn’t anything much to talk about. There’s nothing special look to point out. It’s dark and well-lit when the script calls for it unfortunately. Norr is competent but lacks a trademark.

    As for music, the highly underrated horror composer Christopher Young scored the tunes for this movie. For those who are more familiar with Young’s classically recorded scores from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) and Hellraiser (1987) or even Ghost Rider (2007), it may take some time to get used to this listening experience. It is definitely far from being bad or underdeveloped; it just doesn’t sound like your everyday symphonic score. Unlike in his early work, Young now uses a mix of some organic orchestra and more of electronic synths. There are a number of themes composed for different events, the best being for Ellison’s investigative work, which involves heavily warped electronic bass beats. Along with that are other tracks that are in more of the lines of soundscaping, this is for the series’ main theme. One thing that doesn’t work for this movie musically is anything that isn’t Young’s work, which is used for the snuff films. When these songs are played they are extremely distracting and somewhat annoying. They really should’ve have just stuck with Young only.

    For what it proposed, it definitely looked promising. The villain has a memorable design, the actors efficiently work in their roles, the music is effective and it is unsettling in general. Tragically, the bad evenly outweighs the good with not very many likable main characters, an obnoxious soundtrack from other artists, acceptable but uninspired camera work and a predictable last hour once the ball gets rolling.

    Points Earned –> 5:10

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