Perhaps it is from railing so hard on Insidious earlier that I went into Sinister with such low expectations that I actually enjoyed it?
That isn’t to say it doesn’t have its issues; straight off the bat we have the classic setting of a family moving into a house with a history of grisly murders, and experience a host of spectral horrors. But if the creators of Insidious have apparently learned anything, it is learning the meaning of tension.
Ethan Hawke plays a fiction writer who, after success in writing non-fiction crime stories, looks for inspiration by moving his family to a house subject to murders. While not telling his family this. But when his two kids start acting strangely, and his investigations lead to an old film projector showing serial murders… he questions whether his loyalty lies with his work or his family.
Sinister starts out very calmly and actually establishes its characters, who they are and what they do, we get to know them and they each have a role to play in the story. Even side characters are useful, helping or hindering Hawke’s character, but not taking the focus off him. It is a horror film tied around investigation; we see this writer returning to the seedy, unpleasant video footage repeatedly, trying to uncover the truth of the mystery. The camera work is slow, the atmosphere is dark and limiting, shot-compositions are thought out and set up most of the scares well.
Most. Some of the jump scares are predictable if you have seen a lot of horrors before. Hawke will be carrying a phone as a torch, limiting our view, only to stop and turn the light on himself… in total darkness. No one does that with a torch. The soundtrack drops too; audio jump scare and character reaction is imminent!
It doesn’t “jump the shark” like Insidious, it doesn’t get overly stupid. Yes, the evil spirit looks like the lost member from Kiss, but he is used sparingly; all of the tension is built from the raw, grainy footage we are compelled to watch. The soundtrack is better too, maybe a little OTT, but full of angry, grungy, bass sounds to set you on edge.
With much better characters and a stronger sense of humanity within the family involved, Sinister is surprisingly okay. It isn’t amazing, but for any horror junkie it is a sure-fire fix.