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Sinister [2012] is the low-budget horror film from director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, next year’s Doctor Strange) which stars Ethan Hawke as true-crime author Ellison Oswalt. Oswalt moves his family into a home where a violent crime was committed and soon finds a collection of home movies. As he watches them, he discovers a supernatural entity called “Bughuul” may be behind the murders and may be targeting the Oswalt family next.

The smartest dumb kid I know. Sinister is riddled with clichés, but it executes the scares so well that it’s easy to overlook that fact that it’s not very original. The jump scares are abundant, but they punctuate some creepy atmosphere and a constant feeling of unease. These jump scares are earned so they don’t encourage eye-rolls like many other horror films. Regular horror tropes like annoying kids and characters making dumb decisions are definitely here, but the scares make up for a lot of it.

America’s unfunniest home videos. The videos Ellison finds are of gruesome murders of entire families, and as messed up as this may seem, they are the highlight of the film. They are gruesome, creative, and the main source of individuality in this film. They’re unsettling in that they’re done with everyday items. No spoilers, but the simplicity and reserved nature of these household items being used in horrific ways may make you look at your housewares differently.  What makes them even more unsettling is the context (which I won’t spoil here) and the subtle presence of Bughuul.

The bad guy problem. Bughuul is truly terrifying. He is a haunting presence and his look only adds to this. However, the movie only presents him as an entity, not as a character. He is given a very brief backstory and the audience ends up knowing very little about him. He is a weird guy who creeps around and feeds on souls or something, but we never know exactly what. The reasoning might be that they want to expand upon him in the sequel, but that is a poor excuse as it is basically a cop out for unsatisfying writing. They try not to use him too much, but the “less is more” approach could have used a little polishing.

And then the end happened. The ending to Sinister is pretty much inevitable. The film builds up to a very specific destination, so complaints about the end result could be difficult to come by. The thing is the execution. The film has such creativity in its violence that the ending lands with a thud. It goes more supernatural as compared to the reserved nature of the rest of the film. It’s bland and uninspired for most horror movies, but this is exacerbated by the clever simplicity seen previously.

It’s hardly original in its premise
but the kills are creative and the scares are effective.
Sinister
3.0Overall Score
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