Sinister (15)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/10/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Watchable horror movie with some nice ideas and a superb central performance from Ethan Hawke, though the film is a little over-reliant on screechy soundtrack noises and clichéd shock moments for its scares.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Scott Derrickson, Sinister stars Ethan Hawke as Ellison, a true-crime writer who secretly moves his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and two young children (Clare Foley and Michael Hall D'Addario) into a smalltown Pennsylvania house where several grisly murders were committed, in order to write his next book. With the guilt of what he's done already lying heavily on his mind, things get significantly worse when Ellison discovers a box full of chilling home movies in the attic and soon he's experiencing all manner of spooky goings-on.

The Good
Ethan Hawke is superb, delivering a committed and intense performance to the point where you actually believe Ellison is the kind of man who'd prioritise his professional career over the safety and sanity of his own family. There's also strong support from Rylance and brief but enjoyable turns from Vincent D'Onofrio and James Ransone as an academic expert and a dopey cop, respectively.

Derrickson creates an extremely suspenseful atmosphere throughout, revealing various ghostly presences early on, but cleverly withholding their true intentions until much later, while also wringing strong tension from Ellison's marital situation. There are, to be fair, some very effective shock moments, largely down to the film's stunning and brilliantly conceived sound design – it's actually worth seeing the film for that alone.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that it's ultimately a little too reliant on its screechy soundtrack noises and its clichéd shock moments (the worst offender: the one where a shadowy figure runs across the screen in the foreground, unseen by the lead character). There is also far too much prowling around a dark house with a torch, well after things have happened that would have made any normal person leave the house forever.

On top of that, even though it's essentially a delaying tactic for the full horror to come, the ghosts themselves behave in really irritating ways (they are essentially playing hide and seek) and this quickly wears thin, as does the behaviour of the humans once they discover that, you know, their house is actually haunted.

Worth seeing?
Sinister is an effectively creepy horror movie with stunning sound design work and a superb central performance from Ethan Hawke, though it’s a little too over-reliant on its shock-tactic clichés and is one of those films where you end up screaming at people to turn the bloody light on.

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Content updated: 05/11/2012 17:34

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