"The greatest aspect to Sinister is it's story - which, despite its potential perplexity - is entirely comprehensible and intelligent..."
Above anything else, the primary purpose for any horror movie maker is to scare - and Scott Derrickson's aptly named Sinister does just that, in a film that was originally spawned from one of writer C. Robert Cargill's very own nightmares.
Ethan Hawke plays Ellison, a true-crime novelist who, alongside his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and two kids, moves into a new home - although unbeknown to his partner, it's the former abode of the family his forthcoming novel is based upon - a family who just so happened to have all been murdered, aside from the youngest daughter who remains missing. Taking his research methods to a dangerous new level, Ellison soon discovers an old projector in the attic, equipped with a series of harrowing home movies.
Each ominous tape shows a different family from across the past few decades all coming to the same, twisted conclusion whereby they all are all brutally murdered. Of course in such a situation most people would be absolutely terrified and move home instantly, with fears that they themselves could face the same fate - yet Ellison decides to stay, believing himself to be on the verge of a criminal revelation, hoping to write a book on his findings that will see his downtrodden career back on track.
The greatest aspect to Sinister is it's story - which, despite its potential perplexity - is entirely comprehensible and intelligent, which is where so many horror movies falter, a testament to Cargill who has written a brilliant screenplay, and one that is also relatively humorous in parts, supplying some much needed light relief to the audience. Most importantly, Sinister keeps you guessing throughout as you see everything unravel through the eyes of Ellison, piecing it all together as it goes along.
Despite the unique and innovative idea, as a horror movie Sinister does seem somewhat traditional of the genre, using a series of age-old techniques in order to implement the actual horror. For example, all of the alarming moments occur at night, which, similarly to The Blair Witch Project, allows for the audience to seek refuge in the daylight, a needed breather and opportunity to feel safe before transpiring back into the dark where you know it's all going to get really bloody scary again.
The lighting is also effective, as due to the fact the gateway to horror is that of a projector, of course all of the lights must be turned off in order for that work, although having said that it does become somewhat infuriating that Ellison doesn't turn on hallway lights. As a result we have a variety of scenes featuring Hawke sheepishly wondering around with a torch, which is a quite conventional and tedious technique.
Helped along by a fine lead performance by Hawke, Sinister is a clever horror movie that, although being unbelievable in many ways (it's a supernatural horror so that goes without saying) still manages to compel and convince you, and when a director manages to get you board and suspend your disbelief, they then have you in the palm of their hand, able to take you wherever they wish.
Yet above anything else, Sinister is genuinely chilling and although it has you hiding behind your hands, the gripping nature of the feature encourages the urge to create a small gap in between your fingers, so that you don't actually miss a thing.