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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Movie Review: Sinister

Sinister is yet another film I missed while it was in theaters, though I heard great things about it's creep factor. I have younger brothers who are practically horror film aficionados, and they had a copy of it. I wanted to watch at least one horror film, both for participation in Readers Imbibing Peril, and just in honor of Halloween in general. So, I did some borrowing from my brothers' film library. 

**Don't worry. This review will be largely spoiler-free!**

Plot: Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a crime writer who may or may not have pissed off law enforcement through his writing in the past. He moves his family into a home where several unsolved murders recently took place in order to look into them for his next big book. He finds a box of old, projector-style films in the attic that law enforcement somehow overlooked. When he starts watching them, he realizes they are eerie snuff films cataloging not only the murders he's investigating, but others that have never been linked. His investigation leads him to the occult, the unseen world, and other hellish places he could never have imagined.

Characters: Ellison is really the only character in the story that undergoes any development. The story is kind of a one-man show. In order to pull that off, the character had better be pretty good, and I think this one was excellent. Ellison is VERY flawed. He achieved his 15 minutes of fame with an earlier book, and longs to get that status back. He's willing to sacrifice everything--perhaps even his long-suffering family--to achieve it. He's well flushed out via interviews he keeps and watches from his days of fame, in which he claims fame means nothing to him, though we see through his current actions that it isn't true at all.

Acting: I'm not always Ethan Hawke's biggest fan, but I think he did a good job here. He managed to portray the restless workaholic, who genuinely thinks his workaholic-ness is what's best for his family. He was very believable.

World Building: The world-building here took place almost entirely within the house. It was a world of creaks and thuds in the night, things moving in the shadows, and a world in which the unseen world merges with reality. I thought it was very well done.

Creep Factor: Off the charts! I watched this film during the day on a large screened tv, and that was plenty. I can't imagine the scariness if seen in the theaters. Of course there were some cheap, throw-something-suddenly-and-violently-at-the-screen scares, but it was more than that. This film was genuinely scary. We're talking about a guy sitting alone in the dark watching beyond-twisted snuff films, that involve entire families, including children. The person behind the camera--whoever they are--is doing the killing, and we only get a glimpse of a pale, demonic face in reflections. I won't go into the gore of the killings--it's not so much frenzied violence as calm, calculated kills, which actually makes it scarier. And let's just say, if you're not big on gore, the second the lawn mower shows up, do yourself a favor and look away.

Twists: The twists weren't completely mind-blowing--I saw most of them coming--but that doesn't mean they were a disappointment. It had more to do with how the story was crafted. What happened once before will probably happen again, and by the time Ellison (and the audience) realize he's put his family in the line of fire, it may or may not be too late. That sort of thing.

Ending: I thought the ending fit the story really well. It wasn't disappointing. Don't get me wrong: it sucked. But it sucked in a sucks-to-be-a-victim-in-a-horror-film sort of way. The creep factor was definitely present in the ending, and the thing that creeped me out most was the final drawing. There are timeline-type drawings on the lid of a box to tell what's happened to various victims. When the final one shows up, I shuddered. Violently. 

All in all, I enjoyed this film, though I wouldn't want to watch it alone, in the dark, or right before bed. It had an R-rating and, not that it was undeserved, but it truly wasn't over-the-top. Probably don't show this one to your kids, but it wasn't at all gratuitous in the content. 

So, if you're looking for a great, creepy, but not over the top content-wise Halloween film, I'd definitely recommend Sinister! Bring on the creep fest!

Has anyone else seen Sinister? How did you like it?

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