The found footage genre has grown in popularity in the recent years due to Paranormal Activity bringing new life to the tired brand. Since the release, it seems the industry gets a new found footage film every year around this time replacing the classic spook house thrillers of yesteryear. Sinister manages to combine these popular genres to create a frightful yet very predictable horror film.
Sinister tells the story of down and out writer Ellison Oswalt, played by Ethan Hawke, who moves his entire family to a house where a murder and missing children’s case took place years before for inspiration for a comeback novel. While moving in boxes, Ellison comes across a box of old home movies and begins to investigate the movies. Ellison soon discovers the films are the murders of missing children’s family that seem to be connected by the supernatural Pagan child eating deity known as Bagul as the terror begins to takeover the house and his life.
The problems with Sinister is that besides the interesting premise, it executes it with much of the same the audience has see before in much better features before it. The scares are the obvious standbys and lead to predictability that the average viewer will have figured out the film’s end in the middle of the second act. A majority of the ‘scary’ scenes and twists have been spoiled due in part to the marketing campaign, which will leave viewers wanting more.
What Sinister does succeed at is in the performance of Ethan Hawke and the mood and atmosphere it creates. Hawke plays Ellison with such frailty yet determination that one can buy his struggle to make his comeback happen in between the madness that is slowly appearing. The best moment is when he is watching the gruesome home videos with a look of pure terror on his face. The atmosphere around the film is dark, thanks to the score which gives a subtle haunting tone, similar to the classic scores of John Carpenter. The found footage home movies Ellison views are another saving grace providing true terror and gore that are cross borderline snuff film territory, which might be a bit too much for the squeamish and easily frightened.
While executing elements of found footage horror with ease and simplicity with great performances and atmosphere, Sinister is weighed down due to its predictability that audiences may know too well. Sinister is rated R for disturbing violent images and some terror.
Final Verdict: 3 out of 5