By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

It has been a while since a horror movie genuinely scared me. I actually can’t remember the last horror film that gave me the creeps as I sat in a dark theater and watched.  It has been that long. After the conclusion of Sinister, I had to take a moment to compose myself.  I sat frozen stiff in my seat and had to relax and loosen up before I left the theater.  I have to hand it to director/writer Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and first time screenwriter C. Robert Cargill.  These gentlemen deliver the horrific goods in this movie and I applaud them for it.

Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a true crime novelist working on his latest book.  Oswalt moves his family into a home with a dark and violent history which will make up the content of his latest novel. Upon moving in, Oswalt discovers a mysterious box left behind in the attic.  As it turns out, the box contains a film projector and several super 8 reels.  As he watches the first couple of reels, Oswalt realizes that these films contain footage of several ritualistic murders, possibly connected to the crime he is investigating.  As he immerses himself into his work, strange and frightening occurrences in the home take place.  Oswalt begins to question if these events are truly supernatural or if he is losing his mind.

Austinite and former film blogger, C. Robert Cargill came up with the story and developed the script with Derrickson.  I must state, that this truly is the best horror film I have seen in a long time.  Derrickson and Cargill meticulously develop the story and characters well and also build up to the scares sublimely and devilishly. I truly felt engrossed and on the edge of my seat throughout most of the movie.  Granted, the movie does have a few slow moments, but there are not enough of these to bog down the experience.  Derrickson also doesn’t go for cheap gross-out shocks in his presentation of scary scenes. He exercises restraint and this proves much more effective than excessive gore. They also do not over-do the “gotcha” scares which has annoyed me with other horror movies.

The other issue I have had recently with horror films, is the loud and often obnoxious scores and sound effects that only serve to irritate me and not actually frighten me.  A good example of this is the music and noises in Insidious.  I felt that the filmmakers relied on these cheap gags to startle their audiences and not on writing, skilled direction and editing. That definitely is not the case with Sinister.  The score by Christopher Young serves to enhance the frights and builds to them beautifully.

Hawke delivers a fine turn here as the author obsessed with his latest project.  The supporting cast portraying his family (Juliet Rylance, Michael Hall D’Addario, Claire Foley) all perform well.  Actor James Ransone offers some goofy and fun comic relief as the town deputy and Vincent D’Onofrio makes a cool cameo as occult expert Professor Jonas.

As far as stories are concerned, Cargill’s isn’t totally unique.  One can easily see the influences from such films as The Ring, 8mm, The Shining and others. The movie does also suffer from the typical not so intelligent character clichés and pratfalls found in horror movies. Still, there is no denying the entertainment value and impact it has and how effectively frightening it is.  Obviously, people who don’t like horror film will have no interest in this movie.  Fans of horror, who have been disappointed with the horror produced by Hollywood in recent years will absolutely enjoy it.  I must highly recommend Sinister for horror fans because it truly is pretty damn scary.  It is the perfect movie to see before Halloween.


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