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Pictures and videos hold memories, tell stories, and evoke emotions. They can also summon old pagan gods who eat children. Yeah, you might want to rethink your instagram account now. Sinister blends good, old fashioned suspense and horror with an interesting lead character who you DON’T want dead right away.
Sinister employs the tried and true method of introducing a stubborn, egomaniac that doesn’t believe in the existence of anything paranormal or supernatural (despite the continually growing evidence to the contrary) and puts him in a situation where any other superstitious, black cat fearing person would have run away. Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a crime writer whose 15 minutes of fame have come and gone, but in an attempt to bring his career back to life, he decides to investigate a peculiar murder.
In what can only be described as a moment of brilliance, he decides to move his family into the old house of a murdered family he is investigating. Inside this seemingly empty house, Ellison finds a container with 8mm films, each depicting the gruesome deaths of families in the last 50 years. One of the eerie coincidences is that each film has a member of the murdered family go missing. The other similarity is that in each video, there is an odd figure skulking around. Needless to say, he continues his investigation despite everything and everyone telling him to stop.
The problem with many recent horror movies is that the main character is either unlikable or you don’t know/care enough about him to want him to survive. Sinister does a great job at creating a relatable main character that you root for the entire time. You understand his hopes, his dreams, and his desires as if they were your own. You want to see him succeed so much that at times you can’t help but yell advice at the screen, even though all you know it’ll get you is shushed.
To say that Sinister was effectively scary would be an understatement. This film does such a great job building up and executing its scares that at times its reminiscent of a great John Carpenter or Clive Barker film. That’s not to say that the film is without its flaws, but what it does right greatly out-weighs them. The successful scares and solid performances are enough to distract you from the less than original story behind the movie, and in the end, what more can you ask for from a horror film?
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