director Scott Derrickson
You know what’s really scary? Sadly, neither do most horror filmmakers.
Sinister is not a terrible movie, but it brings nothing really new or interesting to the table. And ultimately, in trying to develop yet another franchise horror figure, a recurring supernatural creep out to kill everyone, it ultimately puts planned future profits above real scares.
Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer, down on his luck after an initial success, who moves his family into the house where a notorious crime occurred. An entire family was hung from a tree together while the youngest child mysteriously disappeared. And in his research, he stumbles across a box of old 8mm films that show various families meeting various eerie fates.
The 8mm device is not utterly ineffective but it is pat and overused. Old images freak us out, especially when weird things happen in them. It’s sort of a technology thing. In this dated technology, there is something eerie, dissociating, and whether it’s in The Ring (2002) and strange-walking well-dwellers crawl at you or in 8mm “snuff” films, creepier by being degraded, it’s sort of glib shorthand for freaky.
Hawke and director Scott Derrickson keep the movie going. It’s not without heart and not without its qualities. But when a guy who looks like he’s straight out of Insane Clown Posse or some Death Metal band appears on the images, goading children to slay their parents, it doesn’t matter if he is supposed to be some ancient Pagan god or the dude down the street. Well,…I take that back. The dude down the street is probably scarier. I mean, he’s just down the street, not in the unlikely home movies of families been killed in your house. Not everybody has those type of problems.
The idea of children being the killers does offer something potentially much more unsettling. But children as murderers doing the mindless bidding of a black-and-white make-upped rocker dude…well, that is great for marketing. Could be the next Freddy Kreuger! A knowable, recognizable figure who can appear time and again in sequel after sequel as the point of seeing a horror film becomes more and more detached from anything resembling anything truly frightening.
Or maybe I’m just in a bad mood.