Crime writer Ellison (Ethan Hawke) walks around in a cardigan. That’s a crime in itself, if only of the fashion variety. Sinister is a mostly commendable supernatural horror, comparable to The Shining in that a writer and his family move out into the wilderness and the scribe lets his psyche get the better of him.
When we meet Ellison, he’s moving into his new abode and given a very terse welcome from a Pennsylvania sheriff who is “not a fan” (and yet someone who’s read four of his books). We’d love it if we had non-fans as devoted to our writing! [Please see DEATH BY UMBRELLA! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons] Also, his kids object that they’ll be targeted in school because of dad’s profile. Ah yes, one of those “extremely popular with kids, true-crime writers.”
His wife, who’s had no trouble with his line of work before, starts lambasting him for his vocational choice when she finds out about the subject matter of his latest effort. But it’s not like his previous efforts detailed crimes of the Barnie Madoff variety. They were pretty violent and lurid too.
In the bungalow basement Ellison finds some mysterious 70s Super 8 mm film. Unfortunately, it’s not from the Golden Age of Porn; rather, it’s disturbing footage of the deaths of four people by hanging. He decides to edit the film, as a first-timer, completely shrouded in darkness (as one is wont to do).
Soon, his his son is experiencing night terrors and depicting the hanging in his art, driving Ellison deeper into the mystery.
This, we soon find out, involves the puzzling “Mr Boogie,” which sounds like a deep album cut by The Gap Band.
Sinister delivers the shocks for the most part. Like most horror films, this one is much better on a big screen (where this reviewer originally saw it). And it’s better for having the cool Vincent D’Onofrio in it as that ubiquitous horror movie staple, the anthropologist. Also, mad props for actually using Google’s search engine instead of some made-up-for-the-movies version.
Sinister is a wonderful exploration of darkness, with enough real-world creep factor to put it a troposphere above its usually tepid PG brethren, even if it doesn’t shoot for the moon.
While by no means great, if all supernatural horrors were this good, it wouldn’t be our least favorite horror sub-genre.
Of course, that’s just an opinion. To quote another Ellison (sci fi writer Harlan): “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion.” It’s possible we haven’t given supernaturals their fair shake.
***1/2 (out of 4)