This week, Papa Kenn reviews the latest in horror from the producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious: SINISTER!
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Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance and James Ransone
October is finally in full swing, giving us four (count them: FOUR) movies in one week, one of which is the latest in supernatural horror: Sinister. Truth be told, this is a pretty solid horror movie overall, and gives a fresh spin on the idea of “found footage” movies! It’s brought to us by the producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, but doesn’t suffer from some of the issues that both of these had.
Paranormal Activity suffered from being regarded as either incredibly boring or weird and somewhat tense until everything comes to a head at the end. Insidious on the other hand, had a very strong and refreshingly scary feel to it that took a major nosedive in the third act. Sinister manages to maintain a consistent tone to its horror that builds over time…you know, like a proper movie should. It never quite reaches the heights of terror that either movie achieved when at their best, but is a strong effort that’s overall enjoyable.
Of all the characters involved, the most intriguing is easily Ellison Oswalt, played by Ethan Hawke. He’s a true crime writer with a desire to write his best book ever, and the desire quickly turns to an obsession, as the last time he achieved fame was a decade ago with his first book. This obsession drives him to not only move to the same town where the grisly deaths of a family occurred, but into their house where they were murdered!
Now it’s obvious that Sinister is a horror movie, but…the first act of the movie could very well be the first act of a crime thriller along the same lines as Red Dragon (a great movie that should be seen if you haven’t already). This provides the audience a good portrayal of the mental and physical toll that the story takes on Ellison, as well as the family dynamics and how his obsessions affect his wife and children.
Although a successfully scary film, there are two issues that were hard for me to ignore. The first is that the actors playing Ellison’s children, Ashley and Trevor, were less than impressive. It’s no surprise for kid actors to not give great performances, but the daughter’s deadpan performance was incredibly distracting. Then again, my disappointment could be from comparing these kids to Pierce Gagnon, the kid from Looper.
The second and most jarring issue is Sinister’s reliance upon loud music and sounds for many of its scares, like Insidious. Or as my friend the Film Phage put it: “LOUD NOISES!” Despite the annoyingly influential LOUD NOISES…*ahem*…despite the annoyingly influential loud noises and music however, these elements are used in a way that lead to an effectively creepy and unnerving movie. Sure it’s a manipulative tool, but a tool that is used really well.
While Sinister may let down horror purists by relying too much on occasional jump-scares and way too many LOUD NOISES, it is a horror movie that most audiences will enjoy. It will legitimately scare, or at the very least creep out many viewers, while some might leave the theater terrified.
I give Sinister: 8/10.
I’m Papa Kenn, and I’ll see you next review.
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