Halloween is always the best time to go see a horror movie but for some reason it often seems that the studios don't release them then. Too on the nose, perhaps? Regardless, we always have the reliable Paranormal Activity series that seems to pump out a quality installment every October but outside of that we're usually limited to the latest slasher or torture porn sequel that seem to have a goal of repulsing rather than scaring. It's rare that a horror film comes out in October that terrifies and impresses but I was hoping Sinister would be it. It's not and I was let down.
Ethan Hawke rarely makes appearances in studio films anymore and has reserved himself to the art house talkie almost exclusively. He's an excellent actor that really impresses me given his child actor roots. I still think his greatest performance to date was in 2001's Training Day where he earned an Oscar nomination. Sinister delivers his best performance since then and he crafts a character that is just as tortured and intense. He is the best thing about this film.
Unfortunately, the film, which is about a true-crime novelist who moves his family into the home of the murdered family he's writing about just to discover the other worldly reason behind it, is lackluster most of the time. That's not to say that it doesn't have some truely disturbing and shocking images, but they are few and far between. Most of the scenes that are suppose to be horrorific are spun in such a gimicky way that you've seen them done a hundred times over and most of those were done better.
Director/Writer Scott Derrickson has made a horror film like this before. In his The Exorcism of Emily Rose it was the same kind of atmospheric creepiness that pervades most of the film but in the end didn't quite do much to scare, which should be a horror film's ultimate goal. Sinister falls victim to the same fate and worst of all uses CGI for several FX that you'd expect to see on a TV series.
That's not to say Sinister doesn't have some crowning achievements. Besides Hawke's performance, the other reason to give it a view some time is for the musical score. Composer Christopher Young, who has lots of expierence creating music for the macbre movie, has made possibly the creepiest thing about Sinister. It's more like noise experimentation than actual music and it's damn effective.
The other effective aspect comes in the discovery of the filmed murders of the victims of the villain, a pagan god named Bughuul aka Mr. Boogie (see what they did there?). This is a clever throwback to before the time when "found footage" was in every single genre of filmmaking. These movies are dated and shot beautifully creating an almost snuff-like feel. They too are one of the creepiest things about Sinister.
I have no doubt that this will find an audience and make some money. Considering how I feel about The Exorcism of Emily Rose, perhaps I'm just not a fan of Derrickson's style. I still have a few weeks left before Halloween, so maybe I'll look elsewhere for my October fright because after seeing Sinister, I'm still sleeping soundly. Sinister (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C