There are very few movies that genuinely scare me. And I don’t mean to say that in a macho way. I just think that most movies go after cheap scares with loud thuds emerging from silence, chase scenes, or straight up gore. That is not the case with Sinister. Sinister is the scariest movie I’ve seen in a long time.
It gets everything right what so many other horror movies get wrong. Sinister makes us care about the characters, gives a reasonable explanation for their actions, keeps the true villain and origins a mystery, breaks up the tension with humor at key moments, and has several false endings thrown at you. When you think the movie is about to end, it keeps going. When you think you’ve figured out who is behind the murders, it keeps going. It makes the tension in so many of the late sense so palpable that it keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Sinister is about a true crime writer played by Ethan Hawke who moves his family into the house where a brutal family murder took place. When he tries to figure out who committed those murders, he finds a box in the house attic with 8 mm reels of other family murders. As he gets closer and closer to finding a connection, scary things start happening in the house. He can’t move because after his amazing debut book, the last two haven’t sold well and he is so desperate for one more hit that he lied to his wife about the house’s significance. Because of the lack of success (and possible exoneration of the guilty parties) with his previous two books, authorities won’t be helpful. But one sheriff’s deputy helps him without department approval because he’s such a big fan.
Hawke is brilliant at sucking us into the story while also convincing us to hate him for what he’s doing. He and the rest of the characters are written well by writer/director Scott Derrickson. And here’s the question that most horror movies rarely have an answer to: Why doesn’t the family just leave right away? In so many movies about hauntings or scary things, they try and find an answer and deal with the problem, but they do everything short of just leaving wherever all this scary stuff is happening. In this movie, Hawke is so obsessed with making more money on his next book that he keeps lying to his wife. His greed overpowers every other emotion, including the love for his family.
This movie was also surprisingly funny. Almost every scene involving the deputy is hilarious because he sort of serves as the “everyman” that we can all relate to. The hardest laugh in the movie comes when he basically calls out Hawke for the crazy move of moving into the freaking house. And that’s not the only laugh. The characters are pretty smart and observant, so it breaks the tension nicely, making the scary moments more powerful.
Ultimately, this movie is legitimately scary. As a fan of the genre that watches these movies all the time, few scare me but this one did. It’s nightmare fuel. God help you if you watch this at night before bed.