Main cast: Ethan Hawke (Ellison Oswalt), Juliet Rylance (Tracy Oswalt), Clare Foley (Ashley Oswalt), Michael Hall D’Addario (Trevor Oswalt), and James Ransone (Deputy Sheriff)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Moving your entire family into a house that had been the location for the gruesome murders of the previous family that lived there… honestly, what can ever go wrong? If only crime author Ellison Oswalt had been more genre-savvy, sigh.
Ellison needs some kind of inspiration badly as he has this bad writer’s block that he has to overcome to salvage his career. His last big hit was ten years ago. He hopes that a book on the tragedy in this house – family all dead except for a missing daughter – would do the trick. He may have struck gold when he discovers a projector in the attic, along with several reels of 8 mm footages showing various families getting killed in often gruesome ways, including the family he came here to investigate in the first place. Eventually he discovers that there is a constant in each film: a figure wearing a demonic mask over his face can be seen in all films. His investigation leads him to this possibility that the murders started all the way back to the 1960s, perhaps by a serial killer, and a child from each of the family went missing as well, never to be seen again. Elliott thinks that this mystery is going to make his career if he plays his cards right, but sure enough, the viewer starts getting this impression that Elliott’s family may be getting their own film soon…
Sinister is an agonizingly slow movie because it mistakes “atmosphere” for “stretching things as far as possible”. People take way too long to move a small distance, all the while the background music goes all spooky and woo-woo. During such moments, they move their limbs slowly, oh, and of course, nobody even thinks of switching on the lights like any sane person would. Then, we have stereotypes like the imbecile that refuses to leave until it’s too late, the long-suffering wife who occasionally insists that they move to somewhere less contrived, the creepy daughter with artistic sensibilities who soon start talking to dead people and drawing creepy stuff… really, these are staples in the pretentious slow-motion “creepy atmospheric suspense” horror movie types coming from a slew of M Night Shyamalan-wannabes of this decade. Nothing new here in Sinister, but hey, things move ten times slower than usual, and I guess watching Ethan Hawke take five minutes to open a door is a special kind of something can’t be found in other movies of this sort.
The story itself is actually an interesting one, but too bad the execution is bogged down by too much navel-gazing efforts to make Sinister as much a bait for critical acclaim as possible. The movie quickly becomes too smug and pretentious for its own good, and it’s too bad that the people behind this movie are the last to realize this.