Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson
You may like this if you liked: Insidious (James Wan, 2010), The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007), The Ring (Gore Verbinski, 2002)
After a series of commercial failures, true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) is desperate to write another hit. In his attempt to do so he decides to investigate how an entire family were massacred with the exception of the youngest daughter who disappeared. Unknown to the rest of his family, the house they have just moved to is the very house that it happened. One night he finds a box of old home movies complete with the camera to play them. They are all labelled including a year and all show different families being massacred. As Ellison investigates deeper, there may be a disturbing connection between all these murders. Meanwhile he is constantly haunted by visions and hallucinations within the house, is the house haunted? Is he going insane? Or is there something even darker lurking?
I have to state from the off here that I am not really a fan of horror films as I either tend to find them boring or silly. Over the top gore is just farcical but quite funny and all the films of this genre tend to have incredibly predictable and dull plots. I completely fail to understand how people find these films scary, true horror for me is psychological and subtle. I enjoyed Insidious as I thought it was solid and enjoyable enough, so I thought I would give this a go. One of the reasons I gave this a go was that the protagonist was played by a more dependable actor. In the same way that no one does self assurance like Denzel Washington, no one does angst ridden anxiety like Ethan Hawke. Here he does never disappoint with a committed turn, adding depth to what would usually be a generic and clichéd protagonist. I am also pleased to say that I found Sinister to be a solid and very watchable film.
The pacing is excellent and the tone is for more subtle horror. The plot builds slowly which adds interest into both the protagonist and more satisfaction as the plot develops. There are of course some jumpy moments, but the horror is more psychological and therefore requiring a little more intelligence and self control from the film maker. The infrequency of the jumpy moments leads to them being so much more effective. People will find this scary, and some of the scares are a little generic and contrived, but overall this is a very solid and watchable film. There was always a risk of smugness taking over the narrative, but it always keeps its feet on the ground. As revelations are made these are never over complicated for the sake of it and this demonstrates the film makers firmly in control of their film. Yes it does feel a little too polished, neat and tidy in terms of plot and cinematography, but it is a film that you know where you stand with. I find children to be genuinely creepy and sinister (no pun intended) creatures and is this is used to excellent effect. As the plot develops there are no brain melting twists, but this adds to re assuring feeling you get from watching it making it a good solid watch.
Solid acting, a solid story, solid pacing. Yes you guessed it: a solid and very watchable film. Turn off the lights, switch your brain off and enjoy.