Predictable, yet haunting “Sinister” (B-) is a film that realizes the best scares are ones that come from the imagination.
Co-written and directed by Scott Derrickson, this is a slow build type of horror film where most of the audience can see the end game long before the characters in the film. Even so, it’s well crafted piece of work with some genuinely scary moments.
Ethan Hawke stars Ellison Oswalt, a true-crime novelist still grasping to his fame from a book he wrote a decade earlier. Desperate to keep his fame, and struggling to stay afloat financially, Ellison brings his family to a small town to work on the book he thinks will get him back on track. Unbeknownst to the rest of his family Ellison moves his family into a house where all but one family member, a young girl, was hanged in the back yard – with the girl now missing.
Ellison believes he has the break he needs when he discovers found footage in the attic that includes the murder of the family he is studying, as well as several other families from different areas of the country and different decades.
Ellison becomes immersed in the mystery, but the more he uncovers the more he realizes that he has put his entire family in danger from a deadly supernatural force.
Derrickson, who also wrote and directed the 2005 film "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," does a nice job of slowing moving the story along – making the most of every opportunity to scare his audience. The found footage is the most frightening part of “Sinister,” made even more disturbing by the fact it involves young children in peril.
Hawke’s slow descent into madness over the killings kind of reminded me of “The Shining,” with Ellison further isolating himself from his family as the danger heightens. It’s a good performance from Hawke, who gives the material a sense of credibility.
I’ll admit there are times in the second hour when it feels like this could all be solved quickly, with your typical horror mistakes made on several occasions. The ending is also something that most will see coming a mile away, but it’s an ending that is still effective with a final scene as creepy and disturbing as any film in the genre in recent memory.