Sinister / Cert: 15 / Director: Scott Derrickson / Screenplay: Scott Derrickson / Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone / Release Date: October 5th
The crown for the scariest film of the year so far goes to Sinister, which manages to create a crowd-pleasing, effective horror film as well as giving us a boogieman for a new generation.
True crime writer Ellison (Hawke) moves his family to a small town following up the disappearance of a young girl and hoping to score another bestseller in the process. Unbeknownst to his wife and daughter they move to the exact house where the girl’s family was executed before she vanished. Everything appears normal until Ellison finds a box of Super 8 home movies in the attic which show the family being murdered as well as others, sometimes decades apart. Through research he finds out that each executed family also had a young child that disappeared. Careful examination also reveals the presence of a dark, malevolent figure in the footage. Ellison becomes fixated on the mystery and his obsession soon puts his own family in danger.
Two things combine to make Sinister the scariest film since 2011’s Insidious. One is Derrickson’s gift for presenting us with surreal and disturbing images, a skill he had previously displayed in his last film The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Sinister is full of weird moments; the appearance of ‘Mr Boogie’ in a pool being one of them as well as the scene where the ghostly children dance around Ellison as he investigates a bump in the night. The other is the fact that home movies in and of themselves are inherently creepy especially in this day and age of programs like ‘Ghosts Caught on Camera’ you can’t help but look for something weird every time a projector is fired up. This would usually be enough to give a horror film a pass but then Derrickson paces his movie extremely well, building a palpable sense of dread and malevolence whilst never really leaving the single house location. There are jump scares here which are not telegraphed and never cheap, and they work perfectly in the context of the film.
The movie also has several moments of levity which are surprisingly hilarious; lots of great dialogue and Christopher Young’s score is worthy of mention, really adding to the overall feel of the piece with its electronic and vocal flourishes.
As good as the cast are the only bum note is Juliet Rylance as Ellison’s wife. She seems miscast and when delivering her lines doesn’t really convince. This is a minor complaint though as Sinister is one of the year’s best horror films and the beginning of a franchise that should run and run.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10