sinisterSo this past Friday Jono came over after work to watch a movie (as he often does). We haven’t really watched any good horror in a while (actually, probably since Fantasia to be honest) so I decided to check through the new release section and see if there was anything worth watching. I remember the trailer for Sinister looking a little promising so that’s what I decided we were watching. Jon didn’t get a vote since I don’t believe in democracy or the American Dream.  Here’s why Sinister sucked and why it rocked.

Why it sucked:
If you want to know exactly what this movie is about, go and watch the trailer. There are really no surprises here, the trailer tells you basically everything you need to know about this movie. Little girl, little boy, Ethan Hawke is their dad, evil stuff starts happening. That’s about it. The movie doesn’t really try that hard to create a very interesting narrative and while the plot twists are there, you can mostly see them coming from a mile away. In fact, in trying to predict said plot twists we were pretty much 100% accurate, only coming up short when we thought there would be a last minute twist that would’ve made the movie a lot more interesting. If you’re playing the “What’s the Next Plot Twist” home game I can give you a hint: don’t give this movie too much credit or you’ll be disappointed. Also, for a movie that has a girl streaking blood across the wall in poster the gore is surprisingly tame. The movie doesn’t shy away from the gore by turning the camera away or anything, it just does not really revel in it the way the poster might suggest.  Finally, as is the case in many horror movies, the characters eschew all sense of logic at key moments of the film in order to push the film’s train track narrative forward. Sinister isn’t alone here, characters making bad decisions is sadly a big part of contemporary horror, however it does contribute to the “suck” quotient of this film. Particularly guilty is Ethan Hawke’s character, who’s supposed to be a meticulous true-crime writer. A character who supposedly makes his living uncovering clues that the police have missed is a tough sell in the “Failing to Connect Plot Points” section of the horror store.

Why it rocked:
The opening scene of grainy film “found footage” is amazing and, in various degrees, so are all the subsequent “found footage” segments.  The matching of the music to the footage is a little hit and miss, but when it’s a hit it is absolutely amazing. I am particularly fond of the music that is matched up with the final segment by a group called Accurst. In fact, their album “Fragments of a Nightmare” is almost definitely going to become part of the music we listen to when we play Arkham Horror if I can get my hands on it. The use of Boards of Canada’s track “Gyroscope” is also a great tune that supports the film really well. The music is a little over the top in some sequences, but when it’s on it’s really good. You can tell the filmmakers actually took some time trying to figure out the music instead of just stapling the score to the film as an afterthought. Another thing I liked was the fact that by making Ethan Hawke’s character a true-crime writer it actually made sense (for once) that a character in a horror film didn’t immediately seek out police assistance. By having the character make a living by undermining the police he actually had a reason (his livelihood) to try to uncover things on his own. Finally, bonus points for one of the scares actually making Sarah scream out loud. We watch a lot of horror films in this house so she’s pretty desensitized to jump scares and the like, but Sinister managed to make her not only jump but let out an ear piercing screech. Good times. I also liked the way the film was framed, lots of wide shots full of shadows that you’re expecting something to come out of. Two characters might just be talking but because of the way the shot is framed you can’t help but have your eyes scanning the background for some sort of threat. It was a subtle way to keep suspense up without resorting the scare tactics every 5 minutes. The film does have a few jumps, but isn’t bombarding you with them the way a lot of films in the genre do.

Does it suck?
I wouldn’t be able to recommend this to a non-horror movie fan. Sometimes horror transcends its genre and you can recommend it to people on the merits of being a good film (like Martyrs or Haute Tension). This is definitely not one of those movies, if you’re expecting anything extraordinary from this film it’s just not there. That being said, as a Hollywood made major-release horror film it does a good job of playing to its strengths, keeping the tension up and actually coming up with some creepy segments and ideas along the way. This film could have been great if the characters were a little smarter, the plot was a little less predictable and the gore was turned up just a little. Failing all that though I could only recommend this to an avid horror fan looking to waste a couple hours watching a moving that is not a complete failure.