Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Rating: B+

A non-fiction crime writer gets sucked into the world of the murders he’s been researching when he moves into the home of a family who were hung in their own backyard.

Ellison (Hawke) reached the peak of his writing career years ago when he pieced together an unsolved murder case. He continued to move his family around to write more books and solve crimes but was unsuccessful. The strain of moving and researching murders proved to be too much on his wife, and the latest mystery involving the disappearance of a little girl is his last chance to keep his family together.

Sinister does a great job building suspense throughout the movie. Almost every scene is tense and grotesque as Ellison watches 8mm films of families being murdered. There are five different videos so it’s not one quick scene to get over. The film of the family being hung in the house he bought is replayed multiple times, which creates an unsettling atmosphere for the main character. When he discovers a masked figure hidden in most of the videos, the black, blank eyes staring back are creepy. It didn’t help that as I watched the movie, my sister’s long, black dress was hanging on a hanger from a lintel in the corner of a dark hallway.

Despite trying to get rid of the films and accompanying projector, a box holding these items reappears in Ellison’s attic. Bumps and footsteps in the attic are what draw him into the room to find the box each time. The paranoia Ellison picks up from researching murders makes his character aware of his surroundings. What I like about his character is that when he realizes something is seriously wrong, he grabs his family and leaves instead of sticking around trying to find the source of terror in the house. With only ten minutes before the movie ends, however, the revelation was too simple for me to be satisfied with.

Sinister remains tense from start to finish but there wasn’t enough screen time of the scary bad guy. While the mystery of who is doing the murders keeps the movie in suspense, it felt too much like another boogie man story. With a sequel due to come out this August, my bet is that it will reveal a lot more about who this masked figure is.


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