Ethan has a Boogie
True crime novelist Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves his family to a new home where he knows a murder took place but keeps that fact from them as he is desperate to write another best selling novel. The murder which intrigues him is of a family where 4 people were found hung on the tree out back of the house whilst the youngest member of the family went missing. As Ellison looks throughout the house he finds a box of old films and a projector in the attic containing footage not only of the previous family's murder but seemingly other gruesome murders. As Ellison investigates further and watches the films more closely he spots an image which links all the films but he also starts to encounter strange events in the home which involve his children.
Snuff movies, are they real or not? Some people say they exist whilst others say they are urban legend. Whether they do or don't is not important but what is that they have a double effect when used in a movie correctly. That brings me to "Sinister" a movie which does what other movies have failed and that is to incorporate the concept of snuff movies into a movie to great effect but then use them as a starting point to build something much bigger on.
So what does that mean? Well the first third of "Sinister" focuses upon Ellison investigating the true crime and unearthing a box of snuff movies in the attic. That means firstly we have a movie which incorporates found footage in an acceptable and believable manner and secondly these films not only link in to what Ellison is up to but opens the scope of what he is up to as he finds a connection between the crime he was interested in and all the others. Plus on top of that we have the suggestive gore aspect of what we witness on these films from people being hung, others drowned and others set alight in a car. All of which spikes are interest as we begin to wonder who is behind these movies, which depraved local might be behind it.
But as I said "Sinister" uses the mystery of these snuff movies as a start point and once we discover the creepy connection between each of the films it takes the movie off in another effective direction. I say effective although it does become a bit cliche when we discover what is going on but it is still unsettling and extremely powerful. It makes "Sinister" a lot more than it first seems and whilst with any horror movie there are moments of character stupidity there is also some surprisingly intelligent moments in there as well.
Now Ethan Hawke is good through out "Sinister" and is convincing as the writer who becomes obsessed with what he is investigating. Yet at the same time Hawke's performance and the character of Ellison is forgettable which is strangely right because it is what happens which should be the draw of the movie rather than an actor. It also means that director Scott Derrickson's style is more in focus and not only does he cleverly frame some scenes with nice use of reflection to show some gruesome scenes he uses a steady cam. You may say so what but ask yourself how many found footage films make you feel sick because of their incessant use of the shaky cam and you will appreciate what I am no about.
What this all boils down to is that "Sinister" not only ends up a surprisingly intelligent horror movie but a good one at that which oozes the sort of atmosphere which so many horror movies lack.