HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:84
Horror movies and I have a love/hate relationship. I love to watch them, but I absolutely hate most of them. It seems that 99% of horror movies are either torture fests or just plain not scary in any way shape or form. I think it’s a common scenario among the horror community. We’ve become so jaded that very little can please us anymore and the industry has turned to rolling out slop title after slop title both theatrically and direct to home video. Very rarely do I go into a horror film and come out truly creeped out.
Horror movies involving a terrorized and reclusive writer have been done before, think “The Ninth Gate”, “Secret Window” and let’s not forget the most famous of them all “The Shining”. Some have done well and others tanked badly. Luckily for us Director Scott Derrickson crafts a very well done horror/thriller that is filled with subtlety, misdirection and a unique twist on the craft. You can guess one or two of the twists and turns in the movie, and even recognize a few of the classic jump scares, but that doesn’t take away from the actual fright or uneasy feeling that a true horror movie invokes upon the viewer.
Our Story begins with Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), a true crime writer, moving into the home where a grisly quadruple murder had been performed. Ellison had written a true crime smash hit 10 years ago, but his latest true crime stories appeared to have fizzled with the public and left a sour taste in law enforcement’s mouth regarding his intentions. Ellison is now desperate for a hit, lying to himself and his family, he’s here for one thing and one thing only, to solve this murder and write a book that will shoot his out of this slump and into stardom once more. His wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and their two children have no idea that the home they just moved into is the location for this ghastly murder. Finding a set of “snuff” tapes that date back to the 1960’s, Ellison starts piecing together the facts and comes to the conclusion that his location may be only one in a string of ritualistic serial killings. Digging deeper and deeper into the films he starts to unravel, coming closer and closer to that abyss where the mind starts to slip and actually starts believing some of the things he sees in those super 8 tapes. Tracy, seeing her husband start to unravel does everything she can do to draw her husband away, to have him abandon this quest for power and fame and come back to them both in mind and body.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10985[/img]Now, being that this is a movie where spoiling any more of the plot would take away from the scares and suspense, I’ll end my synopsis there. “Sinister” has done what few horror movies since the 80’s has done, and that is to truly leave me creeped out and unsettled. There is very little graphic violence at all, but that is where the beauty of it lies. A true horror movie attacks the mind and the subconscious, its goal isn’t to shock and disgust you with blood flying out the window, but to subtly slide under your skin and nestle there. “Sinister” DOES have its flaws mind you, there are some very stereotypical jump scares, and we’ve all seen the boogie man in the dark before, but it handles it so effortlessly and comes at it in a way that hasn’t been previously delved into so finally we get to see something fresh and exciting in the horror genre.
Ethan plays the obsessed writer to a T. Never over the top or wildly crazy, ala Jack Nicholson, the audience gets to watch the transformation from seemingly caring husband and father, to a man torn apart by his own failures and that insatiable lust for the fame and glory that lures and tempts us all. His children are by far the best children I’ve seen in a horror movie recently, too often we are stuck with children who can’t seem to act their way out of a paper bag and are more of a stiff caricature of a child, rather than that natural bubbly childlike personality we see in real life. Trevor and Ashley are both extremely talented for their age and were able to actually BE children in the film instead of just PLAY at being children, never once did I roll my eyes, like I so often do in the movies, at the poor performances and lack of any emoting done on the child’s part. Instead we see true personalities emerge and even true fright translated onto film.
Rated R for some disturbing violent images and some terror.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10986[/img]Let me say right off the bat, “Sinister” is a VERY VERY dark movie. A HUGE portion of the film is filmed either in the dark or in a dimly lit house, with sporadic day shots. As a result the film suffers just a little bit with some overly dark scenes that tend to wash away the detail. Surprisingly, very little black crush, mostly just scenes that are so dark that you just can’t see as much detail as could have been shown. HOWEVER, close ups and light scenes show incredible detail and clarity. “Sinister” was shot on digital cameras so there is no film grain and surprisingly zero digital noise that I could detect. Colors are a bit pushed towards the yellow end of the spectrum and it tinges the film a bit. Flesh tones and surroundings appear very natural overall and there don’t appear to be any artifacting whatsoever. I didn’t see any compression artifacts or the effects of such nasty digital manipulations such as DNR or aliasing. I would give “Sinister” a higher video score if it were not for the fact that all the dark dark scenes made viewing a bit harder at times.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10988[/img]The audio, on the other hand, was well done and a slight step above the video. Summit Entertainment has given us an exceptional 7.1 DTS-HD MA track for our auditory enjoyment. Subtle and impactful, I was highly impressed with the track’s range; switching from a typical horror movies jump scare tactics to very subtle and creepy at the drop of a hat. The dynamic range was off the charts, the quiet whispers and creaks of the surrounding spooky house was as quiet and subdued as could be, only to have the silence broken by a thunderous crash or a loud scream that was loud enough to wake the neighbors. While having an excellent range the track was never out of balance and the vocals were crisp and clear as could be. The score was probably the real shining star here, creating a creepy and visceral mood that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats the whole time. Surrounds are used very well, from the quiet creaking of boards to the whirling sounds of a crash as Ethan Hawke falls through a ceiling. LFE was impressive and very aggressive for this type of movie. Relegated to not only jump scares it kept a deep low end throughout the entire film giving the movie an almost “pulsing” feel of deep sonic bombardment.
• Audio Commentary with Director Scott Derrickson
• Audio Commentary with Writers Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
•True Crime Authors
• Living in a House of Death
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Scott Derrickson
Creepy and definitely unique, I give “Sinister” a very solid thumbs up. Sure it has its faults and gets a little rough in spots, but it is very rare that a horror film has ever creeped me out and sent chills down my spine like “Sinister” has. While the ending has turned a lot of people on the net off to it, I find it to be chilling and a truly satisfying (albeit disturbing) end to a movie that couldn’t have ended any other way. Just be aware that you MAY have to tweak the contrast settings of your TV due to the excessive dark scenes, but that should in no way deter you from watching an excellent horror movie. Highly recommended
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ranson
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English DD 2.0, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Runtime: 110 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 19th, 2013
Buy Sinister Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!
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