There are few films that come out in a year (or decade, for that matter) that provoke genuine fright, but this week marks the release of a film that does just that, in C. Robert Cargill's Sinister – and The Fan Carpet's Stefan Pape caught up with the writer ahead of the films release.
Directed by Scott Derrickson Sinister follows the story of Ellison (Ethan Hawke), a true crime writer who moves into the former home of a murdered family, and subject of his latest novel. However he soon has to live through a nightmare of his own, when he finds a box of tapes and a projector discarded in the attic...
Cargill – formerly a film critic himself - discusses how his former career has helped when writing a screenplay, as well discussing how the very concept to Sinister first came about. He also tells us of the importance of a strong story in the horror genre, as well as discussing the current state of the often criticised genre.
Despite writing Sinister, when you watch it does it scare you as an audience member, even though you're the one who created it?
No and part of that is that I was on set for every shock. It's a very weird experience when you make a film, what happens is you create two completely different memories of these shots and they contradict in your head. Like Ethan talks about, eventually you only remember the movie and eventually those memories fade and go away but there's other people who tell me just the opposite, which is what I'm experiencing at the moment, which is when you watch the movie you see the set around it. There's one shot where Ethan's walking down a hallway and I see that and think I was eating a delicious hamburger right behind the monitor, not three feet from him and you remember stuff like that. This being such a big experience for me, watching it brings me nothing but joy but it doesn't really scare me anymore. The initial idea scared me because it came from a dream that I had and so the opening shot came from the nightmare, so initially that whole concept really terrified me but working through the writing process and making the film I've come at peace with it.
So did you literally have a nightmare, wake up and jot some ideas down?
I had made the mistake of watching The Ring and made the mistake of falling asleep right afterwards, I was really tired and decided to take a nap...
And then the phone rang...
[Laughs] No no. My wife actually had that experience watching The Ring alone at home one night and she calls me at work and was like “are you fucking with me? Are you calling me?” and I said “no, why?” and she said “because I'm watching the ring and the phone keeps ringing and no ones there” and she had to turn off the movie. But no, I went to sleep and had a nightmare that I went up into my attic and there I found a box of super 8 films and I pull out the projector and put it on and what is projected is the first shot of the movie. It freaked me out and I could not get it out of my head, it was just an idea that just stuck there. Eventually I said that would make a good movie and from that point on I started working over the story of it but it was something that I didn't have to jot down because it had become a part of my DNA, it was an idea that stuck with me.
Many horror movies are a slow-burning process but straight away you get this image of people hanging from a tree, was it your intention to scare the audience right from the word go?
Yeah that was in the pitch. I was a film writer for 10 years so I watched a ton of horror movies and the biggest problem that horror movies have is when they take the time to set up the family. You have to set up the family, your characters in the first act, you have to dedicate so much time to them otherwise the audience doesn't care enough about them, they wont be scared, they wont care about the horror, thats why slasher movies work the way they do, we don't bother to introduce these characters, but through stereotypes you're supposed to enjoy watching them die. But a real, true, proper horror film you need to get to know about the characters and warm to them, it usually takes you a lot of time to set that up before you introduce the horror, so if you introduce some dread, something hanging over your characters, the audience while watching that introduction is going to be feeling that dread and waiting for the sword to drop at any moment, and I felt that was really important to this idea - that every moment they spend in this house makes you think, whats going to happen, whats going to happen, whats going to happen.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
Sinister Film Page | Sinister Review
SINISTER OPENS ON FRIDAY OCTOBER 5