Runtime: 110 minutes
Release Date: October 12, 2012
Director: Scott Derrickson
"Sinister" opens with one of the best scenes from recent movies. A family of four swings from a huge tree, and as the opposite side of the tree starts tipping over, all four are hanged.
The film then jumps to Ellison (Ethan Hawke, "Gattica"), a true crime writer, who wrote a hit book detailing a murder in Kentucky. After several other books failed to capture that same level of success, he decided to move his family into a smaller and cheaper house while he works on a new book. He fails to mention to his wife or children that a family was murdered there and that the daughter of that family went missing, which he wants to cover in his new book. The sheriff in town (Fred mother fucking Thompson) doesn't want him there because, as he points out, Ellison usually makes police look bad in his books.
One night, Ellison discovers a projector, camera, and a box of Super 8 films in the attic. Each of the films has a title that seems like an ordinary family get together, but he discovers something entirely different when he watches the footage. Pool Party shows a family tied to lawn chairs and dragged into a swimming pool to drown, while Family Hanging Out shows the opening scenes of the film. He also watches a family burned to death when someone sets their car on fire, another family killed when lawn mowers roll over their heads, and a family who get their throats slit.
Ellison eventually gets some help from a deputy who he calls Deputy So and So. The deputy finds some information for him on the murders and puts him in contact with a professor (Vincent D'Onofrio) after he finds some odd symbols on the videos. The more Ellison digs into the history of the footage, the more odd things begin happening in his home. His pre-teen son suffers from night terrors, and his younger daughter begins painting dark images on the walls. Ellison gets so caught up in learning what happened to those families and why it happened that he doesn't realize he's putting his own family in a terrifying position.
There was something about "Sinister" that highly annoyed me, so let's get it out of the way first. They constantly mention money problems that they have because of Ellison not bringing home as much money from his books. I can think of at least six instances where they mentioned money problems. Yet, there's no mention of his wife working or trying to find a job even though their kids are both in school. They also have enough cash to purchase a second house before selling the first, and when things get hard, they just move back into their original mansion. That's not money problems.
Other than that, I really liked the film. Director Scott Derrickson is also the man behind "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," two films I really liked. He also wrote the screenplay for "Urban Legends: Final Cut," another film I liked, but he sadly did some rewrite work on "Scream 4." With "Sinister," it looks like he's finally getting back on track.
The movie is interesting in a way that I cannot really explain. Hawke is incredibly memorable as a man who is so caught up in his work that he doesn't realize how it might impact those around him. There are also some truly creepy scenes that involve a dark figure that keeps turning up in those videos. And those videos! Even though they were just little short scenes that take less than a minute, they are so creepy and odd that you can't help watching and waiting for the next one. "Sinister" is one of those films that I'll likely wind up buying in the near future.