In today’s review, we talk about a movie that I remember putting off seeing because it was another haunting film, not to mention it was done by the same people as all the other haunting movies that had come out recently! I told myself that it was going to be generic, and boring. I groaned, but hey, it’s a horror film. Finally, Stephanie and I watched it, and was it not what either of us expected. at all. I was genuinely, and positively surprised.
Without reading the title can you tell what movie I’m talking about? Let me give you a hint: it involves some killer 8mm tapes, and a family who move into a house where a family was murdered. Nothing? Okay, one more hint: a family of five get hung from a tree outside the family home in the very first scene. No? Okay, fine. Today, ladies and gents, we’re talking about none other than Sinister – a movie that even Robert Ebert somewhat enjoyed..and that’s saying something!
Sinister follows Ellison, a true crime novelist who is looking to publish a new bestseller novel more than ten years after the release of his first hit book, “Kentucky Blood“. Ellison moves his family [his wife and two young kids] into a house that was once the scene of a horrible crime that left a mother, father, and two children dead, with a third child missing! Upon moving in, Ellison finds a box of super 8 films in the attic. On these tapes are the murders of the family who previously lived in his house and four other murders dating back as far as 1966! I mean, talk about a welcoming gift! It seems that the only connection between the murders is a symbol found in all the videos. With his marriage slowly deteriorating and his children’s behavior becoming increasingly strange, Ellison is feels determined to connect the dots and possibly even solve the string of gruesome murders.. Who knows? Plot for a new book, perhaps?
Anyone who is familiar with the popular ‘scary maze game’ online knows how this kind of thing works: even if you know what is going to happen, you will most likely be scared in the moments leading up to the ‘big scare’. You aren’t scared of what is on the screen, but you’re more likely scared of what is about to be. As expected, this is what we could consider the difference between surprising elements and legitimate horror. If the moments leading up to a jump scare are suspenseful, the actual scare is considered “worth it”. Too many horror movies nowadays have worthwhile jump scares. The thing is though, Sinister is not one of those movies. Sure, it has it’s fair share of jump scares, but after the initial shock and fear you feel, you don’t feel better. It’s as if the scares stick with you [in your mind] and you will go back to being just as tense as you were before the scare. It’s use of fear is really well done, and deserves to be recognized as such. It’s a really tense feeling film – and I love it for that reason!
One of my favorite ways Sinister differs from most modern horror movies is that it actually focuses on it’s plot. Scott Derrickson, the Director, spends just as much time focusing on plot development as he does on scaring us, this is something people need to pick up on. Many modern horror films rely on loud noises to almost make it feel like it’s laughing at you, saying “I’m scary cause you jumped!” but is it? Since the characters are more developed and have more depth in Sinister, we can relate to them that much easier. It almost feels like it’s more of a drama film about family relations than it is a horror movie. We learn so much about each individual, that when something is going to happen to them; or actually does..we feel bad, we grow attached to this characters.
Then you get the actual “behind the scenes” stuff. The technical team on this movie really didnt’ miss a beat. The top-notch effects are always key in a film like this, but the common flaw, especially in the horror genre, falls when people end up overdoing it. CGI and post-production “magic” can certainly advance the narrative when it’s needed, but in this film, old school camera effects, which were done while shooting, enhance the believability of the action; as it’s happening!
Cinematographer Chris Norr used a ton of stationary shots and what felt like Hitchcock‘s slow camera pans, to allow the audience to sense the protagonist’s growing paranoia. The occasional subjective POV angle, where the character looks at the camera, effectively makes us, as the viewer, feel like we’re actually in the scene. It’s a great effect, and added to the fearful feelings of being scared.
So check Sinister out if you – like me – ignored it, figuring it’d be a typical horror film. Because in all truthfulness, it’s really not. It’s something more: it’s genuinely terrifying, with each 8mm tape showing us something more and more scary as the film progresses. I’ve read a lot of complaints about the films end, which I guess I get, but come on guys..I feel like that’s what they were going for. I didn’t end up seeing Sinister 2, so maybe that’s where the ending of this film gets explained better? [if you know, let me know in a comment or two!]
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THANKS FOR READING.