Sinister is a psychological horror film from Scott Derrickson, following the life of famous true crimes novelist Ellison Oswalt, who dedicates his life to his work, he is known for a well known and successful novel but since hasn’t managed to replicate that success and struggles to recapture what made that specific novel great. However while researching a current murder, he finds a reel of 60mm home made movies, hinting at a career criminal murderer, with murders going back a few decades, he’s moved into his new home with his wife and kids but as it turns out, his family and he himself may not be safe from whatever was causing the murders.
The film stars Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransone and while it doesn’t have recognizable names outside of Ethan Hawke, the film is still very well acted and Ethan Hawke especially delivers a great performance as Elliot, wanting to provide for his family and life comfortably but knowing he has to work on gruesome murder cases to do so, his marriage also suffers and is stretched to breaking point because of his intensive work. And Juliet Rylance as his wife, Tracy brings some depth to their relationship which is uncomfortable to watch at times, you can tell they both want to get on and live in harmony but just can’t for one reason or another, meanwhile they’re kids have to live with them.
The writing for the film is great and the dialogue is a nice touch, making the characters seem believable and real, from the arguments Elliot and Tracy have, to the parents conversations with their kids and for a modern day horror film especially, the writing alone stands out from the pack of more generic horror films with bigger budgets than Sinister. Scenes are elevated by some great atmosphere building with an effective soundtrack that is effectively used throughout the film, especially in building up and maintaining tension for scenes, the music builds up to a crescendo at points, only to fall back as Elliot realises he’s being paranoid for example, tying up the music to scenes that intricately is just one example of how well it’s done in the film. The tension in the film is well maintained with a very creepy, unsettling vibe pervading the story with seeing the 60mm grainy home made tapes and the rather gruesome murder scenarios is unsettling, all the more so because kids are doing said gruesome acts.
There’s a real sense of foreboding and dread that lingers in the film and that’s probably the scariest thing about it, rather than the notion of ghosts or spirits, as you watch and know that something bad will probably happen to the characters but want to find out just how exactly it will happen.
Sinister is 2/3 of a terrifying film because it really is, the last third is a bit of a letdown and how the film concludes sort of falls flat, the reveal of Baghul doesn’t raise the tension but releases it and he’s really just not that scary when you come to think of it, though the ending is still pretty horrific in itself. With a better final third and a more menacing evil presence, Sinister is easily a fantastic horror film but as it is, it’s still good, a well put together film that’s a lot more unnerving and genuinely creepy than your average horror film, the soundtrack is fantastic and it maintains tension quite well in various sections.
. Great soundtrack and effective use of music
. Some great acting performances, Ethan Hawke especially
. Baghul is a lackluster antagonist
. Final third loses that fear factor