Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sinister

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!


Sinister – 5 out of 5

It’s a rare moment that I find a horror film scary because I’m of the belief that quick spooks meant to make the viewer jump don’t actually qualify as real scares—but there are people who love that cheap, easy scare and that’s why the Paranormal Activity  films makes ass-loads of undeserving cash. These throw away scares do nothing for me because I’ve watched more horror films than any one man should and I know the formula to the point I can watch a horror film and, with about a 95% accuracy, predict the type of scare that the film is building to thanks to overused clich├ęs and overtly obvious musical cues. Some people think this makes me a movie snob but the reality is I’m just really hard to scare and I’m a student of film and the rhetoric within it so, sadly, I suffer from knowing too much about movies. However, if there’s ever a scary movie that will actually frightening me (and I mean frighten, not make me jump) they are nearly universally guaranteed to have been produced overseas. However, Sinister is one American film I actually found to be quite creepy.

Shown:  Quite creepy.


Note: This movie also holds a special place in my heart because I saw it in the theaters with my now girlfriend on our first date and it stands out not only because it scared us but there was a moment that freaked her out so bad that she nearly punched me in the dick when she jumped.

She can make it up to me by buying me that sweater.


Sinister is about the true crime author Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) who’s out to write his next big book after years of lackluster novels. He takes his family and, without their knowledge, moves his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and his kids Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) into the house of a family that was murdered and a young child from the family went missing. Oswalt’s arrival in the town proves to be an unwelcome burden on the local sheriff due to his distain of his writing (he’s a Tom Clancy fan) but Ellison is not deterred and becomes even more obsessed with the project after he finds a projector and film canisters that not only shows the murder of the family of the house (they were hanged from the tree in the backyard) but films that show the grisly murders of other families that also ended up with a missing child. 

"I also enjoy Robert Ludlum."


Ellison believes he’s stumbled upon a serial killer with a fetish for making snuff films of his deeds and enlists the help of a police officer fan of his that he lovingly refers to as Deputy So-and-So to get him information on the murders. However, Ellison soon realizes that what he is stumbling upon is far darker, far more terrifying event than he originally believed as he finds pagan symbols and a demonic figure in each of the films. With the help of a collage professor (played by an uncredited Vincent D’Onofrio), he soon finds that these atrocities were the acts of a pagan demon called a Bughuul “The Eater of Children.”

"The only demon I see is me...in the sack."


Going into this film, I didn’t expect to be scared due to the fact it’s an American horror film and the batting record of a horror film made in America after the late 70s/early 80s is almost zero but I was also suspicious of the director involved due to the fact he directed the snoozer horror films Hellraiser: Inferno, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Urban Legends: Final Cut. However, what I ultimately discovered was a truly heart-pounding, unsettling horror film that didn’t fail to deliver true scares with the occasional jump spook that, I’m not afraid to admit, worked.

"Honey, the Ethan Hawke is begging to be let in again."


The demon called Bughuul (referred to as Mr. Boogie by the children) is a great antagonist that spends a majority of the film being a fuzzy image in graining film footage but remains a lingering threat that feels like he’s, at all times, lingering off shot ready to pounce. This effect is done with near perfection thanks to the use of camera shots, utilizing the light and shadow of a scene to create perfect atmosphere and some of the best music I’ve ever heard used in a horror film.

Big turn out for Mr. Boogie's one man show.

Hmmm...it's like he can hear the movie's soundtrack.
Most music in scary movies are just tones or notes held until a crescendo that accompanies the moment the person opens a door that they think is a bedroom but soon realizes that it’s a closet and, for some reason, a kitty cat was locked inside. However, Christopher Young created a soundtrack for the film that is able to make your spine melt, your chest tighten and your heart say, “fuck this shit, I’m getting out of here.” The sound is unlike anything I’ve heard before as each track is a unique experimentation of tribal sounds, haunting sound clips of children and electronic beats and wails that border on Dubstep. (I enjoyed the music so much I immediately went out and bought the soundtrack) Mixing the music and the dark playgrounds that Mr. Boogie lives in made the film disturbing from beginning to end and, often, just the sudden appearance of the music was enough to make my heart start to race. Even better was the fact the music is never once used in a way that announces that a scare was coming. It was used to build tension and allow that tension to stand alone. Some viewers may find this usage that ends with a lack of payoff irritating but, for me at least, the tease of something awful being off-screen or on the way is always more terrifying than just getting a slamming door or Jason busting through a window and machete’ing the fuck out of your cranium when the music hits its highest point. The fact that this music would often just accompany something as simple as Ellison watching the deeply unsettling home videos of the deaths or searching the house for a odd sound or analyzing the footage on his computer made for a truly terrifying experience for me.

I don't want to spoil anything here but I'm fairly certain that what's about to happen is
not going to be pleasantly.

He wears glasses like that and it looks cool.  I do and jocks
suddenly appear out of nowhere to beat me up.
The horror is only cemented when you have Ethan Hawke and the rest of the cast coming off as very believable. Hawke really sells the fear he’s experiencing as he uncovers the truth about Mr. Boogie and the torment his family goes through as he writes these books not only makes the film scary but gives it real emotion as Oswalt’s work is more than him dancing with the devil as he searches the shadows that holds pure evil but is also literally tearing his family apart as they are kept out of the loop and become horrified to learn they are living in the house where the murder he was writing about took place. I also really enjoyed D’Onofrio’s performance even though it was small and he was shown only through iChat sessions with Ellison. Just his describing the demon called Bughuul was enough to send chills down my spine and possibly even wet myself while viewing it (it was an embarrassing first date—and yet she’s somehow still with me).

"How come you only IM me when you want to talk about pagan demons?
How about a nice 'how are you?' once and awhile?"


I was really surprised with how well crafted Sinister was. The story is engaging, the scares are hair-raising, the music is soundtrack-buyingly awesome (seriously, it means a lot that I bought it because, thanks to that little invention called the internet, I could have just pirated it—but that would be illegal and I don’t endorse such things), the acting was incredibly good, the ending is just dark and twisted and the film was just disturbing from the opening to the close. I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to say something that I never thought I would say…There is an actual real potential for a sequel or possible franchise. Granted that means the series could break down and become worse and worse with each film but I really believe there could be a great potential for an equally scary and interesting second film.

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