In Sinister, we follow true-crime novelist Ellison (Ethan Hawke), who is desperate to relive his 15 minutes of fame that came and went after he wrote a best-selling book called Kentucky Blood. Hot on the trail of an unsolved crime that he believes could be his next big book, Ellison makes the unwise choice of moving his family into the house where the murder occurred (without telling them what happened there or the true reason why they moved there). While unpacking their things, Ellison comes across a box of old super 8 recordings. Curious, he begins to view the recordings and soon finds himself neck deep in something far bigger than he could have ever imagined.
Fred Dalton Thomas does a great job as the sheriff of the town that Ellison and crew move into, and James Ransone is superb as Deputy So-and-So, a not-so-dimwitted deputy that Ellison recruits into his investigation. In another film Deputy So-and-So would be a bumbling idiot that is called on for help but dies a grisly murder, but in Sinister, his character actually provides a lot of help to Ellison and serves an important purpose in the film. He’s not just your typical throw-away cop.
Ethan Hawke plays our protagonist Ellison, and this is HIS film. The film centers around him, and we are placed into his footsteps (whether we like it or not). What’s interesting is that Ellison really isn’t all that likeable of a character. He continually puts himself before his family, and knowingly and willingly places them in great danger all so he can relive his 15 minutes of fame. As I said before, he’s not the best guy. Here’s the thing, though; I don’t believe we’re supposed to like him. He’s not supposed to be the hero; he’s supposed to be a human being with weaknesses. This is a very rare choice for a horror movie character. Ethan Hawke does a superb job here, nailing the character and succeeding in getting audiences to care for and even kind of like his character despite his flaws.
The writing for the film is quite good. I would give it a C. Robert Cargill wrote the script and manages to prove that he knows what he’s doing, crafting characters that aren’t your typical cliches, but are the most human characters I have seen in a while (I like how he chose to make Ellison a writer, a nice touch that helped me sympathize with that character and understand his motivations.). While some characters do make a few dumb decisions, these decisions HAVE to be made in order to move the plot along. Cargill manages to craft a good horror story that has classic elements mixed in with a few modern twists, and what’s more…. the film actually stays with you.
Sinister is easily one of the better horror films I have seen of late. It’s smart, it contains some genuinely creepy imagery, and while the ending twist isn’t all that surprising, I still like where the film chose to go with its ending, and the story is pretty strong despite some common horror tropes. Sinister will probably emerge as this year’s best horror film. Sinister chilled me to the bone, and it stayed with me (pretty sure I’ll have dreams about this one), and isn’t that what every good horror film is supposed to do?
Sinister is out on Blu-Ray and DVD NOW!
~Daniel “Smalls” Huffman