2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.5 out of 5,
This review is from: Sinister [DVD] (DVD)
Looking for a solid piece of horror fare one could do far worse than "Sinister", a quietly unsettling offering from the director of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose". The story revolves around a true crime writer who, in the hunt for a bestseller, moves his family to a house where a particularly gruesome multiple murder took place. Played by Ethan Hawke here's a man who sold one New York Times number one bestseller a decade ago and has been desperately seeking a taste of past glories since having followed his initial success with two flops. Uprooting his wife and two children to the site of a murder Hawkes character isn't the most atypically sympathetic character to head a horror picture and his morally ambivalent nature works in establishing an engaging lead. Within a week of arriving in their new home Hawkes writer locates a box of home-movies in the attic. Believing them connected to his new book he begins watching what is revealed to be a series of grisly murders each connected by occult symbolism, a missing child and a murky image of a figure on the periphery of the killings.
To reveal any more about the nature of the killings would be to spoil "Sinister", which like any solid outing in the cinema is better discovered fresh. Needless to say once our leading man cracks open the home movies strange and increasingly unsettling events begin to occur around the house. Plenty of small creaks, bumps and the odd loud crash in the house populate the first half of "Sinister" and with fairly limited characterization outside of Ethan Hawkes crime writer the life looks like it's about to drain from the picture well before the sixty minute mark. Then, as things take a turn both for the worse and for the supernatural, "Sinister" slowly evolves into a genuinely tense experience. This is especially true as the increasingly disturbing killings are shown via the Super-8 home movies and oddities began occurring in the house allowing Hawkes to show his every man character unraveling while director Scott Derrickson carefully builds an understated and satisfying sense of tension.
Whether or not the second half of "Sinister" (where I found the movie picked up considerably) works depends on ones willingness to go with the overtly supernatural elements at play. Situations involving characters doing typically stupid things in horror movies are kept to a minimal. Admittedly the discovery of the murder tapes and how long they are kept private is strained and there's one key scene near the end, which I will not spoil here, where Ethan Hawkes behavior is a plot necessity as opposed to a logical action. Yet these are quibbles and the stories pay-off is comfortably worth it. Overall "Sinister" is a deft, well-paced and effectively tense thriller that to its immense credit follows its grim convictions and story line to the very last shot.