MOVIE REVIEW: Sinister (2012)

Ben Conniff

Filmed by Summit Entertainment

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Halloween season is officially upon us, and a fresh batch of horror movies is rolling into theaters over the course of the month. 

The two that immediately come to mind are “Sinister” and “Paranormal Activity 4.” With the annual hype building steadily around the next entry in the “Paranormal Activity” series, Sinister may have been overlooked on your list of films to see this fall. There were a few trailers and promotional spots playing sporadically on TV and on the Internet, but the hype was not as huge as one might think heading into opening weekend. Sinister relied heavily on word-of-mouth from those who saw the trailers.

From a technical standpoint, it’s a very modest film compared to most of today’s mainstream genre entries. IMDb estimated Sinister’s budget at only $3 million, which could help explain why its marketing seemed so thinly spread.

That being said, I believe that Sinister, like the original Paranormal Activity, proves that you don’t need a bloated budget to terrify an audience. I encourage everyone to see this movie in theaters because it is the best and most terrifying horror movie I have ever seen, and they did it without an abundance of blood and gore.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I sat down to view this movie last week. I had seen one or two trailers, thought it looked scary, and even roped a handful of my friends into seeing it. But I was not entirely clear on what the story was about or what I had gotten us all into.

From what is probably the most shocking and disturbing opening shot of any film I have ever seen, it is clear that director Scott Derrickson didn’t want his audience to get a wink of sleep for days. I rarely, if ever, get genuinely terrified watching a horror film, but Sinister finally shook me to my core and has stayed with me for about a week now. Any film that can do that certainly earns my seal of approval, especially this time of year. 

Sinister is about a true-crime novelist named Ellison Oswalt, played magnificently by Ethan Hawke, who relocates his family to a home where another family was murdered in the backyard not long before their move. Ellison’s objective is to study the house and surrounding neighborhood for clues about the murders, which are the subject matter for his latest book.  Using a box of Super 8 films he conveniently finds sitting in his empty attic, Ellison discovers that the murders at the house were linked to other unsolved murders around the United States throughout the 20th century. Ellison goes on a terrifying quest to uncover the truth that puts him and his family in the path of a dangerous supernatural entity.

As the plot unfolded before us, I jumped out of my seat consistently from beginning to end, as did the vast majority of people in the theater. The footage sequences that Ellison watches for his research kept me on edge the most.

There are also some classic haunted-house elements in other scenes, such as subdued lighting, creepy music and jump scares that combine to create the most horrifying movie experience I have ever been a part of. I would also like to take the time to formally apologize to the girl sitting next to me, whose hand I’m sure I nearly broke with my nervous vice grip.