31 Days Of Horror: Something Sinister…

A good horror movie is hard to find these days and Sinister is no exception. From the producer of please-let-it-end Paranormal Activity this fright fest was not all bad but it was almost more frustrating seeing what potential it had and watching it fall on its face. Check out the trailer below and then hit the jump for my review!

Dad, Ellison (Ethan Hawke) is a crime fiction writer looking to recapture his faded glory with the next big hit. He tows his family to a new town to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. Little does his family know that he’s moved them into the very house that girl lived in and her family subsequently died in. Ellison finds a box of home movies that are more than disturbing. They picture scenes of a happy family who is killed off in a horrific manner. Ellison is sucked into the films and is convinced that they will lead to his next, best novel, despite the fact that creepy things are starting to happen to his family and around the house.

All of the “home movies” contain a mysterious figure labeled the boogie man, or as the resident pagan expert (Vincent D’Onofrio) tells us: Bughuul – the eater of children’s souls. All of the families in the films are also connected. One child from each film has gone missing and they’ve all lived in this house. As Ellison and a local deputy investigate the link, we see Ellison’s determination to uncover the truth at any cost bring his family closer and closer to the edge of madness. The consequences of which are deadly.

*SPOILER* It turns out that the missing children were each responsible for the demise of their families with a little help from the Devil himself, Bughuul, and Ellison and his family are next. Their little daughter Ashley neatly chops them to pieces and paints the house with their blood. *SPOILER*

I was scared watching this movie. I think it’s deeply ingrained in us that we can manifest things from the other side by calling them forth. The idea that a demon can live in images and it wants your soul is scary. You even have a meta quality to the film which they try to play on at the end. You’ve spent all this time watching images of Bughuul, which supposedly calls him forth and by logical extension you have called him forth. It’s a cheap scare at the end, where Bughuul pops onto the screen, which was unnecessary.

The acting is superb, (Ethan Hawke may have found his second calling in the horror genre) but there is something clunky about the film that breaks the tension. I feel like we’ve seen most of it before. It almost would have been more interesting as a drama, showing how ambition can push a man to madness. The core theme is solid. If they could have twisted the plot slightly to reflect how Ellison brought about his family’s downfall, rather than relying on music cues and an odd looking SAW reject of a demon, you might have had a real brain teaser there. Not to say there weren’t great effects as well. Moments where the stolen children chase Ellison around the house in spectral form are visually arresting. The super 8 films of the families being killed are really quite scary, especially the one where the family is run over by a lawn mower. But at every point I felt like I knew what the characters were going to do next. When Ellison burns the super 8 films, you know that box of films is going to appear again perfectly intact. Ellison hears the projector running up the attic and decides to take a look. What do you think you would find? Why a demon of course. Ellison takes his family on the run from the demon but we’re told earlier in the film the other families did the same and they ended up dead. What kind of movie logic is that?

I feel like I was watching a really good movie from the corner of my eye but if I looked at it head on all I saw was a mess. I want a re-do with Ethan Hawke in another cool horror flick.

4 bumps in the night out of 10

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