You can tell a great deal about a movie by the trailers that run before the opening credits. It’s a way of marketing upcoming movies to an audience already in the mood for, say, a comedy, or in the case of “Sinister,” a horror flick.
The promos before this Ethan Hawke chiller include “Texas Chainsaw 3D” and the “Silent Hill” sequel, which is set in a “town hell calls home.” By the time the opening credits of the main feature have played–a home movie of a family being hung in slow motion–you are well prepared for the creepy tale that follows.
Ethan Hawke is a true crime author whose last big hit was ten years previous. Convinced he has stumbled on a new real life mystery with the makings of a best seller he moves his family to a small town and a new house. What he doesn’t tell his wife or kids is that the house is actually the scene of the crime he’s investigating. In the attic he discovers a box of home movies that unlock some sinister secrets.
“Sinister” is a good old-fashioned spooky movie where it is misty at night, things go bump in the night, and very door in the house needs to be oiled. It mostly makes do without any special effects, which helps add some authentic atmosphere. AS we see here you don’t need CGI to make a horror movie, just some stylish camera work, an anxiety inducing soundtrack and weird looking kids with lots of dark eye make-up.
In some ways “Sinister” is sort like “The Shining’s” little brother. That’s not a spoiler, Ethan Hawke doesn’t chop his way through a door, but he does play a writer, driven to extremes by circumstance and the supernatural, who moves his family to a new and strange place only to have his work have unintended repercussions on everyone in the household.
Ethan Hawke, as a desperate author convinced he’s on to the story that could revitalize his career, is in just about every frame of the film and carries it. He slowly lets the darkness of his investigation get to him as he tries to put himself in the crime victim’s head space.
Also interesting are James Ransone as the jokingly named Deputy So-and-So, who adds some unexpected comedic flair when the going gets grim, and Vincent D’Onofrio as the occult specialist—there’s always an occult specialist in these movies. How else to explain the unexplainable?
“Sinister” mostly shies away from getting really down and dirty—most of the grim stuff is left to our imaginations or filtered through Hawke’s shocked reactions—but it builds tension really well and will leave you unsettled.