I have this thing. For lack of a better term (and being a geek) I call it my “Richie-sense”; it lets me get a feel for a movie and what my reaction to it will be long before I ever see it. Granted, there are mishaps (it failed me miserably on Terror Toons, but for the most part it goes off without a hitch. There are times it tells me to ignore all reviews and spoilers and just go see the movie blind. For Sinister, I listened and was rewarded greatly.
I meant to go see this film back during October but I did stupid shit and saw Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (I did not review it, here is my review: don’t see it, play the video game instead). Yesterday we finally saw Sinister. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I’m not going to go heavy into spoilers so as not to spoil it for you, but I’d still suggest you stop reading at this point and go see the film now. Films like this deserve our support so maybe more of their ilk will be made.
Struggling true crime author Elliot Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is working on his new book about the disappearance of a little girl after her family was murdered. The opening image of the film is startling and nasty, showing what happens to the film via faux snuff film footage and I really….it sounds sick to say love….but I did love it. It turns out that Oswalt has moved his unaware family into the home of the missing girl in order to write the book. The local authorities do not take kindly to him being there, feeling it is in poor taste.
While unpacking, he goes into the attic to put things away and finds a box labeled “home movies”. In it is a projector and super 8 film reels. Thinking it left over from the previous occupants, Oswalt fires up the projector in his office only to discover what he has on his hands is a box full of snuff films by what seems to be a serial killer. The film reels all follow a pattern: we see a family in a location doing something normal for a few seconds (i.e. playing in the backyard by a tree) and then see them being murdered in that location (i.e. being hung from the tree). During the snuff reels there is music composed by Christopher (Hellraiser) Young that MAKES this movie what it is. The tracks have a hypnotic dissonance. They lull the viewer but also there is this looping going on that attacks the subconscious. The way the tracks drone on and on adds to the helplessness of the victims in the video, Oswalt watching the video, and the viewer for watching it all.
Oswalt continues examining the videoes for clues. He thinks about calling the police to take the films, and then sees it as his ticket to a new best seller. This decision turns him into a drinking recluse to try to cope with what he is seeing. His wife is struggling with the kids while he is locked away isolated in his office. His son is having night terrors and sleep walks at night. Yes, this is a nod to The Shining, but no, Oswalt is not the villain, just a jerk trying to get rich.
This is as far as I go with spoilers.
I like how there is an actual story being told here. It’s not a perfect movie, but for this day and age it’s leaps and bounds above the standard fare. It’s a horror movie that isn’t played for laughs. The title is an accurate description of what the movie is. It’s a very dark, dark, movie. It reminded me a bit of The Ring remake, which was the last film to really scare me. I could sense some parallels.
While listening to the soundtrack off of YouTube, I came across an interview with the writer, C. Robert Cargill. In it, he talked about how came up with this idea for this story after a nightmare he had after seeing The Ring (called it!). The dream concerned an attic with a box of Super 8 films, one of which had a family being hung. The story blossomed from there.
I love this story. It’s like if a person found a box of snippets of the worst scenes from things like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or The Last House on the Left, only they were real. It’s a scary thought to think a killer would leave documentation of handiwork in your home just to fuck with you.
Scott Derickson is a good director, and I’m glad he is getting the chance to redeem himself after The Day the Earth Stood Still remake. I really liked Hellraiser: Inferno and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Hopefully he can bring us more dark gems like those and this movie. Our genre needs it.
Go see this movie.