Here we go, another mediocre, jump scare based horror for us to sit through. Well, that's what I thought anyway, especially with the "producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious" involved.
Sinister follows Ellison (Ethan Hawke), a true crime writer who is still trying to live up to the fame he received from a book he wrote ten years ago. Ellison moves his family into a town where a family were all gruesomely hung, apart from their daughter, who remains missing. In his quest to uncover information about the events, Ellison stumbles upon a box of Super 8 films in the attic of his new house, each one depicting a family being murdered, the crimes committed by an unknown observer over a period of decades. Are these murders the work of a meticulous, long standing serial killer, or is it something altogether more... sinister? (See what I did there?)
Sinister checks some of the boxes of most horror movies these days. There's a significant build up, in which jump scares occur, and are quickly attributed to something that's not actually scary. But this movie certainly seems different from your usual fare. While in most our protagonist is thrust into horrific events and forced to survive, here we see Ellison starting out as intrigued by the murders, and eager to uncover the truth. As events unfold and Ellison gets more and more obsessed with the case despite the gruesome things he has witnessed, I began to doubt his sanity, which gives the story a bit of an edge. Ethan Hawke plays the part really well, clearly repulsed at the films he is watching, but with a morbid curiosity to press on and figure everything out.
Sinister really hits it out of the park in terms of atmosphere. The soundtrack is, at times, absolutely creepy, especially when played over the top of the Super 8 footage. There's a lot of darkness too, and while tense moments are almost always ended with a jump scare, there's always an immense feeling of dread throughout the whole movie, especially as Ellison's descent into madness truly begins.
Sinister surprised me. I was expecting another so-so horror flick, and was greeted with a truly spooky film that's dripping in atmosphere. Boring horror cliches are present, and it doesn't have the most original of stories, but once the pieces of the plot fall into place it turns out to be all quite well crafted. Sinister is not perfect, but it's probably the best horror that I've seen in recent months.
My rating: 4/5