It’s been quite some time since we’ve gotten a really good horror movie. Earlier this year we got Cabin in the Woods, which was a great horror comedy, but it’s been a while since we’ve had a true horror movie be good. Director/co-writer Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and co-writer C. Robert Cargill (Carlyle from Spill.com) bring us Sinister, a throw back to old school horror. Can Derrickson and Cargill finally put together a truly great horror movie or does Sinister go the way of most horror movies of the last 20 years?
Ethan Hawke (Training Day) stars as Ellison Osborne, a true-crime novelist who moves with his family into a house where a family was murdered. He plans on writing a book about the murder that happened at the house but chooses to keep his knowledge of the murder from his family. In the attic of the house, Ellison finds a box of old home movies which he starts to watch. With each video he sees a different family murdered, this causes him to do some research and try to find out who murdered these families and if they’re linked in any way. A strange figure shows up in all the videos, this is who Ellison believes to be the killer. After seeing the figure in the videos strange things begin happening around the house and Ellison starts seeing this figure outside of the videos. Could Ellison just be hallucinating from lack of sleep and stress or is his family in danger of this mysterious creature?
For a horror movie to work it can’t just rely on jump scares. The filmmakers need to create an atmosphere that is frightening and put a sense of fear on screen that the audience can believe.Sinister does just that. What director Scott Derrickson puts on screen is actually scary and it’s because of the atmosphere he creates. Right from the opening shot you can tell this is going to be a disturbing movie, and while it is disturbing it never goes over the top with its scares. All the jump scares here are earned, they don’t feel cheap like they do in most other horror movies because of how the movie is set up. Here the jump scares don’t just make you jump, they make you feel the terror that is on screen which is all I could ever want from a horror movie.
This movie spends most of its time with one character and for it to be successful that actor needs to give a really good performance. Thankfully, Ethan Hawke gives a great performance. He gives you a character that you can root for and you hope that he and his family make it out of this situation alive. It’s also very interesting watching his character try to uncover all the clues to the murders, it gives part of the movie a mystery aspect that works just as well as the horror and Hawke does a great job in both aspects. While there isn’t much of a supporting cast everyone involved does a good job supporting Ethan Hawke. Juliet Rylance makes a great wife for Hawke’s character, James Ransone is both humorous and surprisingly smart as the town’s deputy and Fred Dalton Thompson as the sheriff makes for an interesting character who you aren’t sure if he’s a good or bad guy.
Sinister works as both a horror and a murder mystery. It provides a great performance from Ethan Hawke and showcases a new horror creature that will stay with you even after the movie is over. This is without a doubt one of the best horror movies in the last ten years.
Final Grade: B+