“Ellison, we didn’t move in a few houses down from a crime scene again. did we?”Tracy
Sinister delivers an atmospheric horror experience by starting out more like an detective thriller as true crime writer Ellison investigates a grizzly murder, with the supernatural only encroaching later. This provides a novel take on the “found footage” concept as he pieces together murders from a box of old Super-8 reels containing amateur snuff films. Although the plot draws together derivative elements from other films, like The Shining‘s struggling author who has dragged his family across the country, it remains compelling until cast adrift by the rote supernatural elements. Ethan Hawke is Sinister‘s lynch pin, unravelling believably as Ellison, his desperate desire for another hit novel clashing with his duties to his family, while his alcohol use renders the viewer’s perspective unreliable. Sinister manages to maintain its tense atmosphere and is routinely unsettling, though it still falls back on predictable jump scares and diminishing returns in repeated sequences of Ellison watching old footage in a darkened room.