Sometimes I get to attend some awesome events, and this was definitely one of them. Thanks to Keep It Classic, we not only got to see “Sinister” early, but there was a Q & A with the director/writer Scott Derrickson, and writer C. Robert Cargill afterwards. Because there was a Q & A, I had high hopes that it would be a pretty good movie. So was I right, or were they in for a long night of questioning?
Ellison (Ethan Hawke), a crime novelist, moves his family into a new home in order to do research for his next novel. While his family is used to living near the crime scenes he is researching, this time it’s different. They are actually living in the house where a family was horrifically murdered. Upon moving into the house, Ellison stumbles upon a box of old films. He decides to watch them as part of his research, but they soon become more than just research.
While the movie has its fair share of suspense, there is no suspense in this review. I’m going to come right out and let you know that I love this movie. You know how some people talk about love at first sight, well that might have happened to me during the opening sequence. While some horror movies give audiences a little set up before hitting them with a bang, this one combines the set up with the bang. The first thing the audience gets to see is a family getting murdered, and soon after sees that is where Ellison just moved his family.
One of the interesting things about this movie is the different use of found footage. Instead of this being an entirely found footage movie, Ellison is the one who finds the footage, and the audience gets to watch it with him. It’s good to see found footage where the audience knows exactly who is watching it unlike some of these movies that just play found footage, but never explain who exactly is watching it and why besides the obvious fact that it is a movie.
On top of that, the found footage is of Super 8 films, each showing the murder of a family. The Super 8 films give the murders uniqueness not just in how the murders are committed, but how the audience gets to see them. As you might be able to tell, the first murder is my favorite, but that is not to take anything away from the other ones. The original plan was for there to be six films, but they cut it down to five, which turns out to be a good enough.
This movie really has a little bit of everything in it. The films supply the real horror with the murders. There is plenty of suspense and tension in scenes where Ellison hears something in the house, and goes to investigate. The tension usually leads to some pretty good scares. Then throw in the mystery that Ellison is trying to solve.
Finally there is the guy we all see in the movie posters. For purposes of this review I’ll call him Mr. B., as I don’t want to give away his full name. He is as creepy looking in the movie as he is in the poster. Scott let us know that they actually found the design for the face from an online search. Sometimes it pays to put your work out there. They don’t over use him in the movie, as they seem to pick just the right times for him to appear.
While Mr. B. doesn’t dominate this movie, Ellison certainly does, which brings me to the acting. Ethan simply puts on a fabulous performance from loving father to obsessive writer. They told us Ethan actually wasn’t too sure about doing a horror movie, but after his first scare scene he settled right into his role. I totally believe that because the audience will completely feel his fear when he roams around the house trying to figure out what is going on.
Juliet Rylance puts on a strong performance as Ellison’s wife Tracy. Michael Hall D’ Addario and Clare Foley, who play Ellison and Tracy’s children, don’t have a lot of screen time, but they definitely create some memorable moments. James Ransone quietly puts on a great performance as a local police deputy. At first audiences might just think his character will come and go, but he definitely grows on the audience the more they see him.
The last thing I will mention is the score, which you know I rarely bother to mention. Part of it is done Christopher Young, and part of it is from music that Scott found. It absolutely adds to the tension that is created. I picked up on it mid way through the movie, but it really stands out in the movie’s final sequence of events.
They took C. Robert Cargill’s idea of finding a box of films, and really came up with a terrific film. It’s full of suspense, tension, scares, and pure horror. For those looking for originality, it has that too. Mr. B is certainly creepy, but Ethan steals the show. I really didn’t know much about this movie going in, and that is certainly the way to see it. Don’t watch the trailers because as usual they show way too much. Just believe me when I tell you that you need to see this movie because I give it 5 pools of blood.