That is one creepy ass poster, right? I will say this about this movie right off – man, did it’s creators sure know how to make one HELL of a trailer for a movie. I mean wow. The first time I saw the trailer in a dark theater where it was only me and a few others in there, I was genuinely scared. This movie was going to be something special, and who better to bring it to us than one of the producers of what was arguably the scariest movie I’ve ever seen to this day, Insidious. That movie was brilliant, and frankly, still far superior to this one. Save your $7-10, and go rent that one for $1 instead, for a truly scary experience during this fine fall month. But don’t worry, I’m going to tell you just why Sinister didn’t work for me, which was really a myriad of reasons.
First off, and I hate to say this because I usually really like this guy, but, Ethan Hawke just didn’t do it for me in this movie. He felt out of place, and he pretty much mailed in his performance here (but hey, how good was he in Gattaca, right? Oh man, what about Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead? The Before Sunrise/Sunset movies?! Cmon now!), which is really strange, because normally, he plays the damaged everyman role pretty well (that’s exactly what he does in three of those movies I listed a second ago). But this one, it’s almost like he’s trying to hard, particularly when he yells during some of the what are SUPPOSED to be tense scenes in the movie showing family strife. I didn’t buy them, I just…didn’t like him in this. It was almost like he tried too hard to say “hey everyone, remember me?! I was relevant a few years ago and everyone liked me but I sorta fell off the map, and now I’m in a scaaaaary movie, don’t you like scaaaary movies?! Love me again!” and it fell flat. He plays the main character, pretty much a glory hog who wrote a great book once ten years ago and now is trying everything in his power, family safety be damned, to get that power again. It just isn’t happening for him, so what the hell, might as well move into a house where four people hung themselves in the back yard and one of the family members was never found, right? Nbd, ADVENTURE! MYSTERY! People will love him again (hmm…theres a parallel here…but I got a C+ in geometry so I’m not sure where)! Well naturally, things don’t go according to plan.
So that’s flaw #1 with the movie, this guy. The next flaw is that, this movie spends too much time in the dark. Of course of course, we all have an unnatural fear of the dark and any good scary movie needs to put you in the dark as often as it can to freak you out and put you on edge. But in this movie, it gets a little ridiculous. This guy is ALWAYS wandering around in the freakin’ dark man! Grab a flashlight! Where the HECK are the light switches?! It becomes more of a gimmick at about the midpoint of the movie, where a friend and I both yelled DUDE! HIT THE FREAKING LIGHT SWITCH! as he stumbled through the dark using only his cell phone flashlight. It’s not cool. This movie isn’t all bad however and it doesn’t provide too many cheap scares because of the dim witted main character’s aversion to light however, it actually provides some genuine scares, it’s just the sum of its parts, the feeling you are left with at the end, that ended up with me not being a huge fan.
So the general plot here is, Hawke and his family move into this house that obviously has a history, and he finds a box of home movies in the attics that feature home movies…with a disturbing twist. Each one ends up with someone off camera killing their family, in usually very creepy and sadistic ways. Not like, Saw sadistic (well, ‘cept for one maybe…) because this movie is MOST ASSUREDLY better than those piece of garbage films, but still, pretty, preeeeetty troubling. Well see, in each case a kid went missing after the family was murdered, which is the big mystery he wants to solve and will make him meeelions of dollars if he does. Problem is, it’s not all fun and games watching videos of people getting killed. Who knew, right? Hawke’s character gets to drinkin’ and starts thinking maybe he’s seeing things and this stuff is getting into his head. His marriage, which wasn’t too solid to begin with (at the beginning his wife even pretty much says “so yeah, if this book doesn’t pan out, I’m gonna go ahead and leave with the kids, so uh, good luck honey!”) starts falling further apart, which ends up in the mostly awkward screaming bouts from Hawke’s character. He discovers there is a link to each video, this weird symbol that is either painted on walls, cars, what have you, in the videos, during the murders. He also discovers a SUPER CREEPY face in one of them. Like, top notch creepy here folks, I’m not kidding. They nailed it with the demon/monster figure here, and if this demon in the movie (who goes by the friendly name of Baghul) had a better story around him, we’d have had something truly special. But turns out, this demon figure is apparently the one kidnapping the kids, he finds this out from one of the maguffins in the movies, a demonology/occult expert who has to really make everything tie together, otherwise the ending we get just wouldn’t make good sense.
The movie, as any good horror movie is prone to do, really cranks up the tension and scares during the last half hour, and I will admit there are some truly startling scenes and genuinely scary moments here, particularly when Hawke shambles around the house (in the f***in’ dark of course!) and these creepy kids are all there with him. You will jump, you will get a chill. Bring a date and she might even jump on you, BONUS. However, after this intensely scary scene, that was pretty much the climax of the movie, and the ending, much like Hawke’s performance, pretty much mails it in.
Of course horrible things happen to the main character and his family, what did you expect? This is a horror movie. But the way it’s done is just…I don’t know, too predictable really. He has two kids in his family. Of course one of them is going to be possessed by Baghul next, DUH. Of course his family’s deaths are probably going to be more interesting and violent than the others, wouldn’t have a movie if we didn’t, right? Problem is, I wish they would have tried harder. We (at least I, and my friends) knew this was coming. Insidious had a fairly unpredictable, if not original, ending, one that left you with a chill. This one just left me saying “well, I sure bet HIS face is red for moving into that haunted house, what’d he expect, I mean geez!” I know I compare this to Insidious a lot, and maybe I shouldn’t. But fact is, they have similar titles, some of the same producers, it’s obvious they were going for the same sort of feelings in this one. It just didn’t work this time.
I was hoping to put this one up with the classics like The Shinin’, The Grudge, The Ring (not the god awful second one where the scariest part was a bunch of freakin’ deer, the first, GOOD one), and Insidious. Instead, all I can really say about this one is damn, what a great trailer they had for it, brilliant even!