10 Reasons You Should See ‘Sinister’
Produced by Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum, directed by Exorcism of Emily Rose writer Scott Derrickson and co-written by Derrickson and Ain’t It Cool vet C. Robert Cargill, expectations have been dangerously high surrounding the release of their new film, ‘Sinister.’ Weirdly, I’m a bit of a horror-flick devotee, so I went to check out, see if it passed muster, and I’m pleased to say there are several reasons to go check this sucker out – just don’t expect to add it as a major, Shining-esque, point in the canon.
- It’s a masterful example of creating an atmosphere of sustained anxiety. But seriously. About an hour in I had been so overwrought for so long that it occurred to me that not only will I die one day, but my parents will also die, and then I almost passed out – so yeah, I mean if that’s what you’re into?
- Ethan Hawke wears a sweater. My God does he wear a sweater. You stare at it and you are like ‘is that wool? Because that collar looks like jersey, weirdly?’ Also there are lather patches on the elbows. It’s a great sweater and he wears it the whole movie which was realism.
- It is strangely beautiful. Though its ending and subsequent reveal falls like a heavy, homely, boot, the film itself is punctuated with moments of eerie, macabre, beauty. As Hawke prowls his home at night convinced he’s stalking a living intruder, it’s what he doesn’t see that he should be afraid of. We sure as hell are, but we’re also strangely moved.
- It understands balance. The only reason I didn’t leave the theatre mid-film to go get a shot or some pills is because just when you literally cannot take it anymore (For me that was when I started loudly saying “I can’t take this anymore,”) the balloon is popped in the form of comic relief provided by the local deputy.
- It is talk heavy. One the first rules (and my least favorite) of screenwriting is talk less and show more. When it comes to the horrific aspects of the film, the script absolutely adheres to this dictum. But, when it comes to the interplay between the family, and between Hawke and the local police, the dialogue is sharp, specific, realistic, and in abundance.
- The acting is quite good. You don’t realize how bad most of the acting in contemporary horror is until you are presented with its opposite, as is the case here. Hakwe serves as a solid anchor as a true crime writer whose passion has been overwhelmed by a desire for money and fame. His wife, Tracy, played by the stage actress Juliet Rylance deftly handles a character who otherwise might be unlikeable, or at the very least impossible to understand. Any lesser actress might have drawn sneers from here – after all, how do you pity a woman who stays with a man willing to endanger their fame to further his own ego? But Rylance’s portrayal seemed pulled from a real marriage, and you believe her just as much when she says she loves her husband and you do when she tells him that she will leave him if things don’t change.
- It subscribes to traditional tropes. It is very much a traditional, American, horror film of the supernatural – the themes of family, hubris, and the occult are played mostly to their strengths. That said, after such an intense ride, when the mystery is solved and all is explained, it feels unworthy of a film that has tread so deliberately throughout.
- The Home Movies. The crux of the film hinges on a box of Super 8 films Ethan Hawke finds in the house – which formerly belonged to a family who were murdered on the property, I won’t say more than that – and the films are. Amazing. The texture, color, and filtering of the film itself creates something gritty and unsettling – I was reminded repeatedly of the night-vision scene in Silence of the Lambs. Not only do these films contain the most horrifying moments of the film, but they manage to completely stand alone as a portrayal of the Baddie who filmed them. (Admittedly, the end deflates this a little, but not much!)
- Bughuul. I am in full support of any evil Babylonian, child-eating, minor deity who looks kind of like Jack White. Seriously – he’s kind of sexy? You’ve seen the trailers, you know what I mean.
- Vincent D’Onofrio. I am pretty sure he did not think this was really a movie and is teaching a class at some minor college in the sticks.