In the months leading up to the highly anticipated release of Sinister, all I had heard – from the reviews, to the tweets – is that Sinister was THE horror film of the last 60 million years. No one could get over it and everyone wanted to get under it. Of course, like any person who can control their expectations, I tried to remain excited but cautious as always. That’s the thing about horror fans, we’re always optimistic but the outcome is usually The House At The End Of The Street rather than Drag Me To Hell. Though, I think this was the rare instance where I let my expectations get the best of me. Not only is Sinister not the horror movie of the last 60 million years, it’s not even the horror movie of the last 5.
Let me begin with the positive. Sinister is an extremely well made film. I thought it was crisp, beautifully shot, accompanied by a decent score and well edited. I mean, it never looked bad, I was visually intrigued the entire time and there were little to no special effects affecting my train of thought. Just a nice simple horror movie, I thought to myself. Well yes, it’s very nice and simple and also a blend of everything you’ve ever seen. (Side note but not really: it’s pretty much the same plot as Insidious, right? Give or take a ghost or 5). To quote my friend @tricky_watson, it is The Shining meets The Omen meets everything else. And really, it is.
All of this is coming from someone who enjoyed the work of most of the talent involved. Yes, I am one of those who found the Paranormal Activity movies entertaining and scary. Yes, I liked Insidious. And of course I loved director Scott Derrickson’s Exorcism of Emily Rose. With Sinister though, it seems to be an uninspired collage of all of that work that came before it. The Paranormal Activity movies are infamous for the entire movie being a build up, and again, I’m fine with that in those movies. Insidious’ ghost story elements and “BOOM! Now jump!” scenes were fun and certainly delivered (depending on who you speak to), but if you’re just going to repeat those elements with a touch of The Shining or The Omen, you’re not offering me anything I haven’t seen before. And that’s the problem with the horror genre right now, isn’t it? Every few years or so a horror movie comes along that revolutionizes the genre and creates it’s own subgenre while everything in-between is either a pile of crap or with the rare exception. Well, I can confirm that that is not Sinister.
Sinister does have its moments though; they are just few and far between. Not to spoil much, but a lawn mower is used the way we have feared our entire lives. Okay, maybe I spoiled a bit but just get ready for that. As I mentioned before, those loud noise moments the Paranormal movies are infamous for are very present here but lacking. For those of you who despise the Paranormal movies, you’re asking me how anything could be more lacking than those movies are, but it is possible. The thing is, you cannot just implement loud noises during tense moments as the only scare tactic without any relevancy or point. In Paranormal, the source of the noises is of something greater, which is fine. In Sinister, the twist (which becomes increasingly lame as I think about the film) doesn’t exactly warrant all the big booms in the film. As much as they aren’t warranted, during the film they are somewhat effective. But even in those enjoyable moments that are sparse, the conventions and traps the film relies on (relies, not falls into is the key) are all too obvious to dismiss.
As for everything else? Well Ethan Hawke gives a genuine performance in a very been there done that character. He’s limited to this film, which is unfortunate. Everything is limited to this film. The more I write this review the more I hate Sinister, so I’m going to stop while I’m ahead.