Horror might just be bigger today than it has ever been.
To some, that might be viewed as a bold statement but you simply have to look at the box-office takings for the films in the SAW and Paranormal Activity franchises to see that I am right.
Films involving ghosts or demonic goings-on are the biggest money-spinners right now, however many of them, such as The Devil Inside and The Possession are nothing more than lacklustre, run-of-the-mill and dare I say, safe, horror films designed for mass consumption.
So, where does Sinister sit among these films?
Well, I’m happy to say that Sinister is miles ahead of the rest of its peers in almost every way, from atmosphere to frights. It’s a fun, and at times, horrifying film, that really delivers the chills.
The film is the story of Ellison, a “true-crime” writer who moves to a small town with his wife and two children with a view to researching his next book. The subject? The disappearance of a young girl, lost after her family were hanged from a tree in their backyard.
Unbeknownst to Ellison’s much put-upon wife, the family have just moved into that very house, and the tree still stands in their back garden. As Ellison settles in, he finds a small box in the attic containing a camera and several super 8 films. A quick peek at the films reveals them to contain, what appears to be, evidence of serial killings dating back many years.
So, as Ellison’s obsession grows, his family’s behaviour becomes more erratic until her realises that he may be part of something much bigger than he originally thought and that the lives of himself and everyone he loves may be at risk.
Intentionally vague, there, and I apologise for that but I would be doing a disservice to Scott Derrickson’s film if I went too deep into the revelations found upon those super 8 films and the knock on effect to the main characters.
Having previously helmed The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, it should come as no surprise to hear that Derrickson, once again, comes across with the scares. Aside from being a great looking and well made film, Sinister actually caused me, ME, to jump several times and elicited even stronger reactions from much of the surrounding audience gathered at Film4 Frightfest. Yelps, gasps and such. It’s fair to say that Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill know their subject matter and know exactly what gives us the fear.
The cast are pretty strong too, with the kids in particular being pretty impressive and, at times, rather unnerving. Ethan Hawke does a masterful job. He lends a real charm to a character that, when you break it down, is actually a bit of a dick. This is a man who essentially puts his work ahead of the emotional and physical well-being of his family…but we don’t care. Hawke has the perfect level of “haunted look” and likeability to pull the role off, while keeping us engaged in his quest.
Some of the reels found in the attic contain some legitimately nasty ways to go but there’s not a whole lot of the red stuff on offer for you gore-hounds out there.
In a world of depressingly mundane horror films being granted a “general release” in cinemas, Sinister is a breath of fresh air that stands taller than most. It is a genuinely effective and clever chiller, and one that guarantees frights aplenty.