Rarely does a horror movie deliver scares from start to finish, forcing me to cover my eyes for extended sequences. The story of Sinister is, honestly, nothing new. Many a famous writer has gone down this path, but yet the writers made this story seem fresh. Writer Ellison Oswalt, played perfectly by Ethan Hawke, is struggling to write another break-out novel. Ten years after his only real hit, Oswalt moves his family to a small town into a house that previously had a murder in it. His only really successful book was a true crime novel and he decides to track down another unsolved crime. As they arrive into town, the sheriff greats him, telling him to move along and not paint the town in a bad light. He ignores this advice and begins to set his office up. Putting their boxes away, he finds a box left in the attic, one they did not bring. Part of his method is to delve into every last detail, and he happily jumps into the home movies, made on the old school film, not even VHS, but actual film.
The home movies reveal the actual footage of the deaths of the previous occupants. Instead of sharing this information with his wife, or two kids, he hides it, resorting to drinking. As the days pass, more and more strange things occur. The videos are disjointed, each one as much as several decades apart. Each film depicts the way the family was killed, one child missing in each one. Oswalt studies each one, getting assistance from a local deputy who investigates the locations of the murders that are nondescript. The second time he views the films, he notices a face in the woods of the first film, the one taken outside of the family’s new house. The face is out of focus, and as he gets up to take a close look, the film catches fire. Thankfully, Google gives him a way to salvage the super 8 film and he gets a blurry shot of the man, if you can call him that. At this point he gets some good advice from the local deputy and connects with a local professor to provide some backstory to the person.
The replay of each film proves the man can be seen in almost each one, or a strange symbol recurring. While this is going on, he encounters various strange things, including a few vermin and a large dog. During one particularly scary sequence, he hears sounds, but as the viewer, we see the missing children running through the house. It isn’t until the scares amp up that Oswalt finally realises he has involved his family in. With a light of the film, he barks at his wife to pack the kids and they leave. As per all movies from the studios that brought Paranormal Activity, the story doesn’t end there. Unfortunately, once seen a first time, the entity never truly leaves you. The end is as chilling as the films of the gruesome deaths. The only thing more affecting would be seeing the next family to be embroiled into the horror.
Hawke was truly magnificent in this movie. As a has-been author, Hawke possessed the tenacity to not realise when the story had become all too real, and still endangered everyone he loved to regain some of his past fame. The supporting cast was mediocre, at best. The daughter was more believable than the other two main characters. The deputy and sheriff were both played very entertainingly, as well as the professor through a web came. The focus of the film is Ethan Hawke and I have to admit, he was really fantastic in the role. The story itself was terrifying. I can’t say what made me so scared, save the face of the thing that was haunting, but the scares came in quick succession, the music perfectly setting up each new scare. The use of light in the movie made things jumping out more obvious, yet I still couldn’t look away. Surprisingly, I am still kind of scared, and I saw this movie at 10.30 this morning and it is almost 6.30 in the evening. I rarely see scary movies that actually scare me well after the fact, but this was one of them. If you want to be scared, this movie will do that and more.